White Stallion Goes Down in Texas
After five years of grassroots challenges by the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, and other citizens' groups comprising the No Coal Coalition, the developers of the proposed White Stallion Energy Center announced last month that they were scrapping plans to build the new 1,200-megawatt coal plant in Bay City, Texas, about 80 miles southwest of Houston.
Above, that's Sierra Club organizer Lydia Avila, speaking at a July 2011 press conference in Houston. The Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter and Beyond Coal campaign organized rallies, sent out action alerts, educated the public, lobbied decision-makers, and galvanized grassroots opposition to the project.
When the White Stallion coal plant was proposed in 2008, local residents rose up in protest against the anticipated pollution the plant would have spewed into the air and water, the amount of water it would have consumed, and the veracity of the developers' promises about White Stallion. And as time went on and more information came out about the project, more and more Matagorda County residents joined together to oppose the plant, along with business owners, land owners, fishermen, members of the medical community, and local elected officials.
Below, Houston City Council member Ed Gonzalez speaks at the July 2011 Sierra Club press conference.
White Stallion's developers blamed the plant's demise on proposed U.S. EPA rules and the possibility of more governmental regulations on its pollution, along with the cost of continuing litigation and the difficulty of competing with low natural gas prices.
"White Stallion's defeat was not about EPA regulations," says Eva Hernandez, at left, one of the Sierra Club's lead organizers in the fight. "It was about a community rising up to say no to this dirty project. We've been fighting the behemoth tooth-and-nail for years. This victory is a testament to the countless hours our volunteer leaders have spent organizing opposition in Bay City and in Houston, fighting off water contracts, and getting citizens like ranchers and farmers to speak out."
Below, a Sierra Club rally in Houston in July 2011 featuring the Club's giant inhaler, calling attention to the potential health impacts of White Stallion.
"The White Stallion developers came to Matagorda County thinking they could lure us into supporting a project that would suck up our water, pump mercury into our bay, and pollute our air," says Eva Malina, president of the No Coal Coalition. "Brave residents asked tough questions and realized that the White Stallion plant would harm our community and our economy. This plant was canceled because we organized to protect our families and Matagorda County."
White Stallion's developers had trouble from the get-go securing the water permits necessary to operate the plant, as well as funding to move forward with construction. In late 2011, the Lower Colorado River Authority voted to deny a contract to provide water to operate the plant. Then in May 2012, on National Shrimp Day, local fishermen and business owners publicly announced their opposition to the plant because it would be a major new source of mercury pollution in a community whose economy is closely tied to the health of the Matagorda Bay.
Above, Neil Carman, the Lone Star Chapter's Clean Air Program Director, speaks at the National Shrimp Day press conference, organized by the Sierra Club, No Coal Coalition, and seafood industry stakeholders.
Since White Stallion was proposed in 2008, the Texas electricity market has shifted substantially, with wind power and natural gas driving electricity prices so low that huge, capital-intensive new coal plants cannot compete. Wind power provided more than 20 percent of Texas' electricity on peak days in 2012, and new wind farms will bring more clean, low-cost electricity to the Texas grid in 2013.
"Huge, dirty plants like White Stallion can't compete with cheaper, cleaner fuels," says Club organizer Avila. "Texas wind energy is booming and will continue to grow, and we've barely begun to tap our solar resources, which will further a clean-energy revolution in the Lone Star State. Ultimately, the White Stallion proposal didn't match the values of the community or the direction of the Texas energy economy. This is a major victory for everyone fighting for clean air, clean water, and the health of our families.
Sierra Club, EDF, and No Coal Coalition activists credit Public Citizen, the SEED Coalition, and the Environmental Integrity Project for their integral role in defeating White Stallion.
Photo courtesy of PennEnergy