By Maria Hammerlein

Citizens Opposed to Dangerous Commercial Activities in Their Community

On Tuesday, Jan. 30th the Kendall County Commissioners Court held an Open House for citizens to hear from representatives of Key Capture Energy who are building a $80 million 100-megawatt lithium-ion battery backup storage facility slated to start in 2 years. This facility is to be located on leased land located on Flat Rock Creek Road in Comfort. The company representatives gave a very glossy report on the project, otherwise known as Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) – to support the reliability of the electric gridtime. Hundreds of citizens, vehemently opposed to the proposal rose-up and asked hard questions of the Key Capture Energy representatives but were left without real answers. In the end, the company is requesting a 7-yr 45% tax abatement, a plat of the land and zoning authorization which is in Kendall County’s court to consider. The citizens in attendance from both Kerr and Kendall counties that rely on our electrical grid demanded more due diligence into the safety of the system, and the fiduciary integrity of the proposal in question.

A Steering Committee has been formed to first try to stop the abatement in hopes that the company would decide it is not worth their time to proceed with the project. They also will be working to identify people who are subject matter experts and possibly attorneys to help guide any actions they might undertake. They are requesting prayer that God would uncover a way to stop this project and lead them. A Facebook group will be launched to help get information out.

Key Capture Energy is essentially producing energy and then storing it in these batteries for times when our electric grid is unable to supply the energy needs of the State. Clearly the area was targeted because there would be limited government capability of stopping the project. The site is directly across from a LCRA substation where they can access the grid directly and sell the energy, they have been storing in the batteries to ERCOT. The facility will be unmanned but is to be remotely monitored. In the event of a fire it would take up to 4 hours to have resources there to address an emergency. It would be left entirely to the local fire department to address the threat. One of the criteria the company cited as a prerequisite to selecting a site was the area must have access to high pressure water system. Clearly, they have violated their own search criteria and sadly it is the most important criteria. Local volunteer fire departments clearly don’t have the resources to deal with a rare earth mineral fire. The concern is what does this mean to those living near the facility. It has been found that Lithium fires produce many toxic gases.

The overarching issue here is that citizens are almost powerless to stop such dangerous commercial activities which jeopardize the quality of life in their communities. The Legislature needs to address these toxic threats to small communities that have limited resources like the unincorporated city of Comfort, Texas. They have learned nothing since the horrific fertilizer explosion in West, Texas. Other states require much more permitting than we do here in Texas. Where is our leadership?

Recordings of the meeting on Tuesday, Jan 30th