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Permit Decision for Corpus Christi Plastics Plant Pending

An architect’s rendering of the ExxonMobil/SABIC plastics plant proposed for the Gregory-Portland area. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is reviewing the company’s request for air quality permits. Courtesy illustration

ExxonMobil’s proposed $10 billion plastic plant in Gregory recently got a nod of approval from administrative law judges as the company prepares for an up-or-down vote on permits needed to begin construction. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality meets June 12 for what could be final consideration of the necessary permits.

TCEQ will also consider a motion filed by Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, the name of the ExxonMobil project in Gregory, asking that the commission allow construction to begin immediately. The administrative law judge gave opposition groups time to file for a rehearing.

The recommendation from the State Office of Administrative Hearings judge was made May 2. It was the result of a public hearing September 6 at the Nueces County Courthouse, followed by a contested case hearing January 24 in Austin.

Prior to the January 24 meeting, leaders and community members from seven local and national environmental organizations held a press conference voicing their continued opposition to the ethane cracker plant. Designed to be the largest plant of its kind in the world, it would produce a variety of natural gas-derived chemicals used to create plastics for drinking bottles and more.

Errol Summerlin, a Portland resident and member of Portland Citizens United and the Coastal Alliance to Protect Our Environment, spoke against the plant.

“They chose to locate where the complex and all of its operational components will have a devastating impact on our environment and public health,” Summerlin said in his statement. “They chose a location that will cause the most disruption to the communities of Gregory and Portland, including a massive plant, an enormous heavy haul road, a 1,000-car rail yard, a terminal at La Quinta Channel, and its end product of polyethylene pellets that will forever alter our communities and the fragile ecological balance between growth and our environment.”

Gulf Coast Growth Ventures issued its own statement on the day of the hearing.

“Gulf Coast Growth Ventures is committed to conducting business in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment, complies with all state and federal laws, and drives economic development,” said Jared Young, public and governmental affairs manager with GCGV. “We have been working with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and local stakeholders throughout this extensive process. We patiently await the TCEQ’s decision regarding our air permit.”

Members of Portland Citizens United plan to attend the June 12 meeting to speak out against the project. The opposition groups have also filed their own motion in protest of the request for construction to begin immediately.

“A final order is not necessarily the last order issued in an administrative proceeding,” said Ilan Levin of the Environmental Integrity Project in a letter to the judges dated May 29. “So long as matters remain open, unfinished, or inconclusive, there is no ‘final’ decision.”

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