Texas Commission Approves Coal Mine for Mexican Power Plants

Published April 9, 2013

The Railroad Commission of Texas, which regulates oil, gas, and coal in the state, approved a permit giving a Mexican company the right to start coal mining operations near Eagle Pass, a Texas border town.

Powering Mexican Electricity
Coal from the Eagle Pass mine will be transported to Mexico to fire coal power plants 20 miles from the U.S. border, near Piedras Negras, Mexico. Mexican company Dos Republicas Coal Partnership will oversee the transportation of coal into Mexico.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency restrictions on coal power make Mexico the most viable market for U.S. coal mines near the Mexican border. Mexico has relatively few restrictions on coal power plants relative to the heavy EPA regulation of U.S. coal power plants. 

Creating Jobs in Texas
“The EPA in Texas last year was trying to enact rules severely restricting coal-fired electrical plants,” said Josiah Neeley, a policy analyst with the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “A number of companies said they’d have to shut down operations.”

The Eagle Pass permit will facilitate 40 permanent jobs in mine staff positions and up to 200 area workforce jobs, according to Pete Nielsen, who testified before the Railroad Commission on behalf of the Dos Republicas Coal Partnership.

Environmental Issues Vetted
Critics say transporting the coal to Mexico will not solve environmental problems. They argue pollutants will cross border and affect residents on the U.S. side.

A commission spokesperson says that issue has already been vetted, however.

“After reviewing extensive testimony and evidence regarding hydrologic, geologic, environmental, water resource, fish and wildlife, air quality, and reclamation data and plans, presented during 19 days of hearing by 36 witnesses, the Commission approved on a 2-1 vote … the application,” Ramona Nye, a spokesperson for the Railroad Commission, told Environment & Climate News.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman provided Environment & Climate News with a copy of the Commission’s “Final Order – Approval of the Application of Dos Republicas Coal Partnership for Renewal/Revision/Expansion of Permit #42-A, Eagle Pass Mine, Maverick County, Texas.”

The Final Order explains how the Commission will carefully administer environmental protection measures to safeguard Texans and the Texas environment. Texas officials will also monitor emissions associated with coal mining and coal power through the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

The permit safeguards the environment by imposing comprehensive protections for air quality, endangered species, “and other health and safety matters,” Nye added.

Cheryl Chumley ([email protected]) is a news writer with The Washington Times. Karen Dove ([email protected]) is a freelance writer in Bradenton, Florida.