Agency Approves Permit for TXU Plant Wednesday June 13, 7:14 pm ET By David Koenig, Associated Press Writer State Agency Approves Permit for TXU Coal Plant
State environmental regulators gave TXU Corp. the go-ahead Wednesday to build a new coal-fired power plant in Central Texas, overruling two arbitrators who questioned the utility's claim that the plant won't make local pollution worse.
Opponents said they would appeal, but if TXU prevails it could salvage at least a portion of its one-time plan to build a fleet of new coal-fired plants.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality voted 2-1 to approve an air permit for the two-unit plant in Robertson County, about 100 miles northeast of Austin.
The vote came after a four-hour hearing in the commission's Austin chambers, which were packed to overflowing with Robertson County residents who favor the plant and its jobs, and environmentalists who fear it will foul Austin's skies and pump 1,440 pounds of mercury into the air each year.
Two administrative law judges recommended last year that the air permit be denied, saying TXU failed to prove it could meet emissions limits. Much of the concern hinged on the proposed fuel -- Texas lignite, a particularly dirty form of coal that comes from three nearby mines owned by TXU.
The deciding vote was cast by H.S. Buddy Garcia, a former aide to Gov. Rick Perry whom Perry appointed to the commission in January. Without Garcia, the permit would have been rejected on a 1-1 tie.
TXU had planned to build 11 new coal-fired units, but it dropped eight when investors announced a $32 billion buyout of the Dallas-based utility. TXU and the buyers said this week they would equip current coal plants with new emission-control technology.
this ruling does not directly impact ARLP because TXU has its own mines. However, it validates that coal is going to be the energy source of the future for at least some utilities. If lignite is acceptable to some, then certainly higher grades of coal will be, too.
All in all, my thesis that utilities will gradually switch to coal is validated.
One other point, after TXU gets their next three coal fired plants permitted, do you really want to bet that they will not continue to use coal beyond those three?