TCEQ: Valero project should move forward

Published 12:45 pm Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Last week’s Texas Commission on Environmental Quality public hearing over a planned billion-dollar coker unit project at Valero — it would be the second at the company’s 4,000-acre site — was a win-win for the mandated process and for Greater Port Arthur people.

TCEQ apparently erred in not crossing its own T’s and dotting its own I’s in its review procedures for the project, which should be completed and ready for production by 2021. There’s a lot of energy-related investment in Jefferson County; we should encourage safe development of worthy projects.

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In TCEQ’s case, the agency didn’t give adequate notice about a previous public meeting on Valero’s application. Former City Councilman John Beard brought that to the attention of the Port Arthur City Council, which rightly asked that TCEQ follow its own procedures. Thus, last Thursday’s meeting at the Carl A. Parker Center at Lamar State College Port Arthur.

About 200 people attended the meeting, many sporting stickers in support of the project. That’s their perfect right.

There were a handful of people present who either opposed the project or had legitimate questions about it. That’s why such meetings are held — to fully flesh out public sentiments on such projects and to discuss their upsides and downsides.

It takes a lot of courage for a naysayer to stand up before a crowd composed of people with views contrary to their own. We salute their courage.

That said, it appears the principal objection was not that the project is unworthy or unsafe but rather that TCEQ erred in not advertising the last meeting. The project appears to meet TCEQ’s standards and it promises both a short-term benefit in the way of some 1,500 temporary construction jobs and a longterm benefit in the addition of 40 high-pay permanent jobs.

Jefferson County and the wider Beaumont-Port Arthur Metropolitan Statistical Area lag behind most of the state for unemployment and adding good jobs seems right a wise course for reducing joblessness. That’s a good reason to move ahead.

The project would also bolster the local economy if Valero makes good on its promise to use local vendors during construction. Right now, this community could use a boost.

It’s of little wonder, then, that the project seemed to generate some enthusiasm among the crowd, many of whom work at the plant or were otherwise engaged in industrial development. Industry is one sector that continues to thrive in Port Arthur and we as a community would do well to support such a strong suit.

The project promises to increase plant production by some 20 percent, which would strengthen Valero’s position in a competitive industry. That would strengthen jobs here for the 800 employed as well as newcomers.

Absent a reason to say no, TCEQ ought to say yes.