Construction halted: Aspen Power denied air quality permit

By Christel Phillips - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Last year, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality revoked the Aspen Power's air quality permit to build a biomass plant in North Lufkin. Aspen appealed the decision, but Monday a judge in a contested hearing suggested TCEQ deny the air quality permit.

The denial, once again, delays the construction process for the North Lufkin biomass power plant.

Danny Vines, President of Aspen Power, LLC, said, "The halt of construction will probably hurt the local economy."

Vines feels the decision couldn't come a worse time. "If there's anything that the North Lufkin community needs more than anything are good quality jobs," explains Vines.

But some say the community doesn't want jobs.

Sylvestor McClain, Community Activist, sarcastically asked, "Would you trade jobs for health? Would you trade jobs for life? He adds, "We would never trade jobs for life and for safety."

McClain feels the only way Aspen Power can obtain the permit... "If they make the improvements for safety, that's our stand," he said.

But the ulitmate decision to grant the air quality permit is the hands of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.  " We have until the 14th to issue our rebuttal to the findings of the SOAH (State Office of Administrative Hearings) Judge."

Vines says the construction project for the plant is 15 months behind schedule and while waiting for an air quality permit the company is losing time and money.

"4.5 to 5 million dollars has been the cost of this delay," said Vines.

Vines feels confident the Aspen Power Biomass Power Plant construction will resume.

He explains, "I look at things from an optimistic stand point I think we will prevail and see this reality."

Aspen Power has until September 14th to submit their findings to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Once TCEQ commissioners review the information...the state could approve the permit.

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