Developers drop plans for Texas coal plant

Developers have pulled the plug on plans to build a coal-fired power plant in Matagorda County, about 90 miles southwest of Houston.

The proposed White Stallion Energy Center fell victim to low prices for natural gas and new federal regulations for new coal-fired power plants, developers said in a statement.

The decision marks the second time in a month that coal-plant developers in Texas have shelved their plans. In January, a Houston-based company ended efforts to build a Corpus Christi plant fueled by petroleum coke, the carbon-rich leftover from nearby oil refining.

The $2.5 billion White Stallion project had run afoul of  new federal limits on emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants. The company has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review the rules.

White Stallion needed the court to block or weaken the mercury rules soon in order to begin construction before April and avoid the EPA’s first-ever limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from power plants.

The developers had proposed to build the 1,320-megawatt White Stallion plant, fueled by coal and petroleum coke, on the coastal plains of mostly rural Matagorda County, which is known for birds and beaches, ranches and rice.

Mercury, which is released into the air when coal is burned in power plants, tends to fall back to earth close to the source. It takes only a small amount of the toxic metal to contaminate bays and rivers, a prospect that worried those who fish near where the facility was to be built.

The White Stallion plant was planned to be built less than 20 miles from the boundary of the eight-county Houston region that is in violation of federal limits for ozone. Regulations on industrial pollution — new sources, in particular — are tighter inside such areas than outside, even though ozone, or smog, is not bound by county lines.

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About The Author

Matthew Tresaugue joined the Houston Chronicle in 2005 after working for newspapers in California, where his beats included land-use development, higher education and Major League Baseball. At the Houston Chronicle, he has covered the environment, reporting on science, policy and politics in areas including air quality, water supply, the Gulf of Mexico and global warming.