TXUs Central Texas coal plant gets OK
TXU Corp. received permission Wednesday to move forward with plans to construct a coal-fired power plant in Central Texas. The plant is one of three that the company’s prospective new owners still plan to build.
A federal judge in Austin approved a settlement Wednesday among TXU, the Justice Department and Alcoa Inc. that allows TXU to build the Sandow power plant in Milam County, about 50 miles south of Waco. The Sandow plant will replace three older coal-fired units used to power Alcoa’s aluminum smelter in Rockdale and will be much cleaner.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks comes days after two private equity firms working to buy TXU announced that they’ll scrap plans to build eight of the 11 power plants. They also agreed to commit to other clean-air initiatives that drew raves from many environmentalists, elected leaders and citizens groups fiercely opposed to the plants.
But the Sandow plant and two plants at TXU’s Oak Grove complex in Robertson County were not included in that agreement. Robertson County borders Milam County to the east.
The judge’s decision disappointed the environmentalists who had sued Alcoa. They have vowed to continue opposing the Sandow and Oak Grove plants, the biggest polluters of the 11 proposed power plants. Studies have shown that pollution from the three plants would degrade air quality in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Jim Marston, the regional director of Environmental Defense, said he had an informal deal with the firms buying TXU to settle the Sandow lawsuit in a way that would result in the plant emitting much less sulfur dioxide. Environmental Defense was one of the groups that sued Alcoa in 2003.
Marston and representatives with the Natural Resources Defense Council negotiated the deal that resulted in the firms deciding to scrap eight of the 11 plants.
But that was not a part of the finalized agreement between the equity firms and the two environmental organizations.
Marston said they have not decided whether to appeal the judge’s ruling.
A spokeswoman said TXU plans to start construction ”as soon as possible.”
Delaying the plants
TXU Corp. has requested a six-month delay on action regarding its applications to build seven coal-fired power plants. The motions are the first formal steps taken by TXU to fulfill a commitment by the equity firms buying the company to scrap plans to build eight of the 11 power plants.
Once the sale is complete, TXU ”intends to withdraw the applications” to build the seven plants, according to the motion.
The formal delay is needed because the state Office of Administrative Hearings is still considering challenges to the plants by citizens groups and municipalities. The challenges would no longer be necessary if the permits are dropped.
The eighth plant the firms have agreed not to build ”” the Morgan Creek pulverized-coal plant in Mitchell County ”” is not part of the motion because it has not been challenged.
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality officials, however, said Wednesday that TXU has told them the Morgan Creek permit will also be withdrawn once the sale is final.