Friday, February 1, 2013

Texas Approves Border-Area Coal Mine

From Wall Street Journal

Texas regulators gave the go-ahead Tuesday for a mine that will produce coal to fuel electric plants just across the border in Mexico, bucking objections that the mine will burden local residents with pollution while providing little economic benefit.

The mine in Maverick County, a mostly rural area on the state?s southern border, could start extracting coal next year under the permit issued by the Railroad Commission of Texas on a 2-1 vote. The controlling company plans to ship the coal to Nava, in the northeast Mexican state of Coahuila, where it will fuel existing power plants owned by the Mexican government.

Maverick County officials and residents have been fighting the proposal for years, along with officials from the Texas border city of Eagle Pass. They say their community will be exposed to blasting shocks and coal dust from the open-pit mine, and get little in return.

?All the coal is going to Mexico,? said George Baxter, a member of the Maverick County Environmental and Public Health Association, a nonprofit group created to oppose the mine. ?It?s not going to benefit us.?

Rudy Rodriguez, a spokesman for Dos Rep?blicas Coal Partnership, the group that requested the permit, said the project will create about 60 direct jobs and stimulate the local economy. Locals will also take advantage of the power produced in Mexico, he added. ?We are tied to the same grid,? Mr. Rodriguez said.

Dos Rep?blicas is U.S.-based but controlled by several Mexican mining firms.

The mine received a state permit more than a decade ago, but it expired before its owners extracted any coal. Dos Rep?blicas decided to renew the permit, in part to take advantage of better coal prices, said Mr. Rodriguez.

Opponents fear water contamination from the mine, and air pollution from the Mexican utilities, which are about 30 miles southwest of Eagle Pass. ?When it?s only a river dividing the two countries, air contamination can come, too,? said Elcira Bares, chief executive of the Maverick County Hospital District.

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