Representatives for the controversial Las Brisas Energy Center project in Corpus Christi were greeted with support at a recent Northwest Business Association luncheon in Robstown.
Unlike past appearances by Las Brisas representatives, protesters were not visible at the May 21 event, which was made up primarily of business owners. The NWBA had opened the luncheon to the public due to the high profile of the issue Las Brisas was addressing.
The $3 billion project is the single largest investment in Corpus Christi history, according to a report provided by Las Brisas at the luncheon. It will create nearly 4,000 jobs during the 4-year construction phase, as well as 230 to 275 jobs after its completion.
The project could also result in more than $400 million in local tax revenue over the first 10 years in operation, according to the report. Las Brisas is currently awaiting a final approval for an air permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
During the question and answer portion of the presentation, some of the attendees questioned why there was opposition to a project that could greatly benefit the city economically.
"If it brings jobs and industry (to the area), why not?" one woman asked.
Former Corpus Christi City Council candidate Tom Watson had only one question for the Las Brisas representatives.
"Where can our young people go to pick up an application?" Watson asked.
Carolyn Moon, a Corpus Christi resident representing the Clean Economy Coalition, expressed concern that the power plant could impact the air quality of the city for its citizens.
"What I'm asking is if your (equipment) doesn't work all that well, we're already, at certain times of the year, in bad shape," Moon said. "Now, we're going to be in big-time bad shape."
District 1 council member Kevin Kieschnick said after the meeting that although the project has come under fire from local environmental groups, he is confident Las Brisas is doing all it can to ensure the safety of the city's residents. Kieschnick ran for election this year in support of the controversial project for economic growth.
"I've supported it from the get-go," Kieschnick said after the presentation. "I think the (economic) impact to the Corpus Christi community is going to be huge."
Russell Campbell, president of the NWBA, said the organization wanted to give Las Brisas a chance to explain to business owners in northwest Corpus Christi the project's potential benefits.
"There's never been anything like it before in Corpus Christi," Campbell said. "When there are jobs, people can afford to buy homes and cars…and it will start to impact the small, local businesses."