Appeals Court Judges Amazed at Polluting Texas Power Plant

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judges in New Orleans couldn’t believe how one of the nation’s dirtiest coal-fired electric power plants in Texas has been allowed to operate without permits for eleven years.

A three-judge panel heard arguments this week in the case brought by the Sierra Club against Luminant’s Martin Lake power plant southwest of Marshall, Texas. Located in the town of Tatum, the plant has operated without permits and without the Best Available Control Technology limiting emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides for more than a decade, according to the Courthouse News Service.

As issue was whether Luminant should have to apply for the required permits and slash its emissions. The United States and the Sierra Club are both appellants here, against Luminant Generation Co.

U.S. District Judge James E. Kinkeade in Dallas denied their request for an injunction, saying that since the pollution has been continuous since 2006, the statute of limitations has expired and nothing can be done.

Senior Fifth Circuit Judge E. Grady Jolly seemed perplexed by that argument.

“There are many ways to skin a cat. Why do it this way?” he asked at the beginning of the hearing. “If they’re in violation of standards, you have no other way to go about it? Why don’t you go through other doors? That’s all I’m asking.

“I’m asking, do they get to pollute the air all they want? You’re telling me that these facilities continue to pollute, and there just isn’t anything you can do about it?”

Between 2005 and 2009 Luminant modified its Martin Lake power plant in violation of the Clean Air Act, according to the Sierra Club’s 2013 lawsuit in Dallas.

The Sierra Club claims that when Martin Lake modified its electric generating units it lost its grandfathered-in status under the Clean Air Act.

It’s unclear when a ruling might be made by the judges.