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Exxon air permit application case becomes contested

Posted at 5:39 PM, Sep 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-06 19:25:40-04

Despite a water permit approval last month, opposition continues to the Gulf Coast Growth Ventures plastics plant in Portland.

That opposition was Thursday during a hearing providing environmental groups an opportunity to oppose an air permit for the facility.

Thursday’s hearing at the Nueces County Courthouse gave attorneys for the Sierra Club and Texas Campaign for the Environment a chance to argue the groups should be made parties in the case, officially making GCGV’s air permit application a contested case.

Those attorneys hope to convince the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to deny the permit request.

“We’re going to fight them as long as we can,” said Portland resident Errol Summerlin.

The environmental watchdogs now work on behalf of local groups like Portland Citizens United to stop construction of Exxon’s proposed plastics plant; or at the very least, make the plant more environmentally friendly.

“They have the technology, they’ve got the money to be able to make it the cleanest and reduce the emissions,” Summerlin said.

But Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, the local firm in charge of construction, says the facility would be well within TCEQ emissions standards.

“The TCEQ has many sets of requirements that we must meet in order to be granted a permit,” said Jacob McAlister, GCGV production manager.  “That’s protective of human health and the environment.”

Despite their official addition to the case, opponents recognize their chances of convincing TCEQ are slim.

“We’re not so naïve as to believe that the TCEQ will deny the permit,” said Summerlin.  “As far as we know, they’ve never denied a permit.”

Now the judge from the state Office of Administrative Hearings will decide on a timetable.

Standard procedure calls for a decision in six months, but opponents hoped to push the deadline to eight or 10 months so they can have more time to make their case.

A decision is expected early next week.

Attorneys for the Sierra Club question a witness during Thursday's hearing.
Attorneys for the Sierra Club question a witness during Thursday’s hearing.