The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) last week issued an air quality permit to the White Stallion Energy Center, a 1,320-MW coal- and petroleum coke–fired power plant proposed for construction in Bay City, Texas.

The agency’s issuance of the state air quality permit, prevention of significant deterioration air quality permit, plantwide applicability limit permit, and hazardous air pollutant major source permit means that developers are closer to building the $2.5 billion project on the east side of the Colorado River. White Stallion must still obtain a Title V operating permit as well as a wastewater permit before starting operation.

Two Texas administrative law judges in July recommended against approving the energy center. But TCEQ commissioners approved the controversial project’s air quality permit with a 3–0 vote on Thursday, “ultimately dismissing the minor objections identified by the Administrative Law Judges,” White Stallion Energy Center LLC., the plant’s owner, said in a statement.

“The decision means that the permit as recommended by the TCEQ Executive Director will be issued, with a few limits on ‘particulate matter’ emissions slightly tightened to reflect marginal improvements in emission rate guarantees,” the group said.

The move by TCEQ prompted heated reactions from environmental groups. The Sierra Club’s Lone Star chapter alleged that the center “failed to meet state requirements,” but that commissioners had amended the permit so it could be awarded while avoiding the possibility for continued public input. “The Commissioners lowered some of the emissions limits but ignored the state’s own Administrative Law Judges’ recommendations,” it said.

White Stallion said that TCEQ’s approval of the permit culminates a two-year process that began “even before White Stallion filed its extensive permit application in September of 2008.”

The center will use a circulating fluidized bed boiler (CFB) design that White Stallion says will remove sulfur dioxide during the combustion process by adding limestone into the boiler. Limestone reacts with the sulfur dioxide to produce a solid material that can be collected with the ash removed from the bottom of the boiler.

The group has also planned to add a selective non-catalytic reducer to remove nitrogen oxides; a dry scrubber to remove sulfur dioxide; activated carbon to remove mercury; and baghouses to remove particulate matter. “These pollution controls remove 99% of the regulated pollutants and particulates generated during the combustion process,” White Stallion said. “Several of these controls are beyond what is required by the TCEQ.”

Sources: TCEQ, White Stallion, Sierra Club, POWERnews