By MARY RAINWATER
While the selection of the site for the U.S. Department of Energy’s FutureGen project — a $1 billion public-private initiative to build the world’s first near-zero emissions coal power plant — is still up in the air, the work being done to bring it to the Lone Star state continues in Austin.
Gov. Rick Perry announced Monday that his proposed budget will contain an additional $183 million in dedicated general revenue to fund the Texas Emission Reduction Plan (TERP), and offered his support for the allocation of $20 million to fund clean coal technology in Texas.
The U.S. Department of Energy is considering two Texas sites — near Jewett in East Texas and Odessa in West Texas — for FutureGen. These sites are under consideration along with two other locations in Illinois.
To date, the state has dedicated more than $5 million to the FutureGen project. If either Texas site is selected for the $1 billion project this fall, Perry has proposed a contingency rider to allocate $20 million to the State Energy Conservation Office to be distributed to the FutureGen Industrial Alliance.
The majority of the funds will help with pipeline easement and CO2 transportation costs.
The FutureGen Texas team, which has been developing the Texas proposals to win the project designed to utilize gasification technology to produce coal-fueled electricity, hailed Perry’s announcement as a milestone in the Texas campaign.
Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael L. Williams, who also chairs the FutureGen Texas Advisory Board, noted that Texas leaders are particularly interested in finding a solution for improving air emissions from power plants.
“As the global debate surrounding coal-fueled power plant emissions escalates, no other state in the nation is more cognizant of theses issues than Texas,” Williams said. “That is why the federal FutureGen Initiative is so critical to the future of our state.”
Dr. Scott Tinker, the state geologist and director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas-Austin, also voiced his pleasure with Perry’s leadership and support of FutureGen.
“Governor Perry has once again demonstrated his leadership and Texas’ firm commitment to bringing FutureGen to Texas by making this a budget priority in 2007,” Dr. Tinker said. “We have a dedicated team of scientists who have been working for almost two years now to develop the winning proposal, and this endorsement from Governor Perry means an awful lot.”
The FutureGen Industrial Alliance (Alliance) has announced that it plans to select FutureGen’s host site by Sept. 1. Final best value offerings are to be submitted by Texas and Illinois to the Alliance in June.
Perry’s announcement is the first step in an effort to pass an aggressive package of financial and other incentives during the 80th Texas Legislature.
Also key to Texas’ FutureGen efforts are the strong local teams coordinating the best value offering at the two sites.
“We’ve got the best and the brightest in both regions working hard to put together an impressive lineup of local incentives,” Commissioner Williams said. “Texas would not be in such a strong position without the great efforts we have had at the local level.”
Since the national shortlist announcement, FutureGen Texas — assisted by numerous environmental consulting organizations — has supplied extensive data sets that will form the basis for Federal NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) environmental impact assessments of both sites.
The U.S. Department of Energy expects to complete the NEPA process by July 30.
“Our state has the resources, geology and commitment necessary to support this project,” Perry said. “With the Legislature’s support, we will also have the additional funding to ensure FutureGen is a success.”
Palestine was a proposed site for FutureGen, losing its bid for the power plant in March 2006.
The Palestine Economic Development Corporation began working on a proposal for the FutureGen project in November 2005 and submitted that final proposal to the East Texas Council of Governments (ETCOG) Dec. 7.
On Dec. 15, 2006 Palestine’s proposal was chosen by the ETCOG to represent East Texas in the state site selection process, and became one of five sites added to the FutureGen Texas Team’s short list Feb. 28.
Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com