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Portland group requests ExxonMobil public hearing

An architectural rendering of what will be the world’s largest steam cracker plant, which is planned for San Patricio County. Courtesy illustration

After ExxonMobil filed a 209-page air permit application with the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality in April, a group of residents officially requested a public hearing on air quality concerning a proposed steam cracker plant to be built in San Patricio County.

Portland Citizens United obtained a copy of the permit application and has made it available to the public as a downloadable PDF (GCGV Air Permit Application). Copies will soon be made public by TCEQ in a number of locations, including Bell Whittington Public Library in Portland and online.

A letter requesting a public hearing was sent by Errol A. Summerlin, a leader for Portland Citizens United, to TCEQ on May 14. The letter states that 1,594 local signatures were obtained by the group on a petition opposing the granting of tax abatements by San Patricio County and Gregory-Portland Independent School District.

“The primary opposition to the project was not the abatements themselves but rather the location of the proposed site and the emissions that would affect the air quality and health of citizens nearby, including children and senior citizens susceptible to higher risks of respiratory illness due to the proximity of the plant to schools and homes,” the letter reads.

A second petition directed to the TCEQ is on the way, Summerlin said. That petition will ask the agency to deny the air permits needed for the plant to be built.

Along with partner Saudi Basic Industries Corp., ExxonMobil Corp. chose to build the world’s largest steam cracker ethylene plant on 1,300 acres in San Patricio County. The site was one of four under consideration. Other potential sites were in Victoria and Louisiana. Those against the $10 billion plant say the facility will be too close to Gregory-Portland High School, which is 1½ miles from where the plant will be built.

According to the permit application, the plant will emit 2.98 million tons of greenhouse gas each year. It is expected to also emit 917.79 tons of “volatile organic compounds” a year, most of which will be ethylene. Slated to go on line in 2021, the plant will be built to produce 1.8 million tons of ethylene a year.

Emission sources listed include cracking furnaces, boilers, process vents, cooling towers, wastewater treatment and storage tanks. The plant will also have elevated flares and ground flares.

“Our concerns include emissions as outlined in the application, wastewater quality, ethane pipeline construction, rail lines, heavy load transport, traffic congestion, mobile air toxins, and overall environmental impact in our quality of life,” Summerlin concludes in the letter.

The application requests an expedited review, which was granted April 20 by P.E. Director of the Air Permits Division Michael Wilson.

“Please be aware that an expedited review requires a high-quality application that provides all of the information, data, analysis needed to allow a complete review,” Wilson wrote in a letter to William H. Cheek, president of Gulf Coast Growth Ventures Asset Holding LLC, based in Houston.

To submit a comment to TCEQ, click here. Add any one of the three permit numbers — 146425, PSDTX1518 or GHGPSDTX170 — and click “Next.” Comments may also be submitted by mail, hand-delivered or faxed. Be sure to include one of the three permit numbers.

To mail your comments, address them to Office of the Chief Clerk, MC 105, TCEQ, P.O. Box 13087, Austin, TX 78711-3087.

To deliver by hand or courier, use this address: Office of the Chief Clerk, TCEQ, 12100 Park 35 Circle, Bldg. F, Austin, TX 78753.

Fax comments to: (512) 239-3311. Faxed comments must also be hand-delivered or mailed to the Office of the Chief Clerk within three business days of the fax.

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