FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 10, 2012

Concerned Residents, Business Leaders Call on White Stallion to Come Clean on Mercury Pollution

Research Shows Matagorda County Fishing Industry Will Be Impacted By Mercury Emissions

Bay City, TX – Today, on National Shrimp Day, Matagorda County fishermen, residents, and air quality experts joined together to call on developers of the proposed White Stallion coal-fired power plant to come clean about mercury emissions from the plant. New research shared at today’s event shows that Matagorda County does not currently have industrial sources of mercury pollution, and the proposed coal plant would be a new source of toxic emissions that would threaten the vibrant local fishing and farming economies. Coal plants are the primary source of mercury pollution, and mercury from coal contaminates waterways and seafood. Mercury contamination in fish has led to fish consumption advisories, where pregnant women are advised to avoid eating certain types of seafood because mercury acts as a potent neurotoxin in babies and young children. A major new source of mercury pollution in Matagorda County could have a substantial negative impact on the local fishing and farming industries.

“The questions we raised today are exactly the types of questions we want our local elected officials to be asking White Stallion,” said Mike Talasek, a local fisherman and business owner. “My entire livelihood depends on the fishing industry, and yet, if White Stallion is built, it would pump 96 pounds of mercury into the air every year.  Why would our mayor and community leaders support a dirty plant and turn their backs on an industry that has such a long rooted history in the community and is contributing so much to our local economy?”

The proposed White Stallion plant currently seeks an air pollution permit that would allow it to emit up to 96 pounds of mercury into the air in Matagorda County each year, but that amount does not comply with a new safeguard from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limiting the amount of mercury and other acid gases that can be emitted by coal plants.  After the safeguard was finalized in December 2011, White Stallion was the first entity to file suit against EPA, which raises questions about pollution from the proposed plant.

Eva Malina, a Bay City resident leading the local opposition to the plant, says “We are a vibrant fishing and farming county, and this plant will threaten our way of life.  White Stallion will do nothing but add pollution and unsightly industrial waste to our community.  The mercury emissions from this plant are a major concern, but there will also be barges of coal floating down the Colorado, and huge waste piles that we believe aren’t being addressed.  We’re calling on White Stallion to tell the public the truth and come clean about their mercury pollution, what they will do with their coal ash waste that also contains mercury, and how they will take steps to avoid any pollution of the Colorado River and Bay.”

According to a recent report by Extension Specialists in the Texas Department of Agricultural Economics, Matagorda County is a major contributor to the Texas seafood economy; the Palacios port is the third most valuable fish port in Texas and it alone accounts for 20% of the state shrimp harvest and landed value[i]. The first day of local shrimping is May 15, and the local fishermen gathered today on National Shrimp Day to highlight the significance of shrimping to Matagorda County.

“Matagorda County residents should be extremely concerned about what new mercury pollution from White Stallion could do to the local fishing industry,” said Dr. Neil Carman, Air Program Director with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Mercury contamination is a real problem around the state and in the Gulf of Mexico. Just one gram of mercury – the size of a grain of rice – can contaminate a 20-acre lake. Here we have the knowledge to prevent a serious problem from happening, and we should act on it.”

White Stallion’s air permit application is currently being reconsidered by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) after White Stallion failed to provide up to date site maps showing how and where the facility would be built.  In the case that TCEQ issues a new air pollution permit for the proposed plant, White Stallion will still need to plan for meeting the mercury pollution limits under the EPA safeguard.

“White Stallion continues to be a bad idea for Texas.” said Lydia Avila, with the Sierra Club.  “Texas is at a crossroads.  We don’t need new big coal plants that pollute our air and water.  We need smarter policy makers that are open to diversifying our electric grid with more wind, solar and efficiency so that our seafood economy can continue to thrive.”

 

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[i] A Review of Palacios Shrimp Landings, Matagorda Bay Oyster Resources, and Statewide Economic Impacts from the Texas Seafood Supply Chain and Saltwater Sport Fishing, Summary and Conclusions, page 11.

For a copy of this report, please contact nocoal@nocoalcoalition.org

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