The Palestine and Anderson County FutureGen site proposal received a unanimous vote of support to represent East Texas in the state site selection process for the FutureGen project by the East Texas Council of Governments FutureGen Site Selection Committee.

Palestine was selected as the candidate during the committee meeting Thursday at the Center for Applied Technology in Marshall.

The selection committee, chaired by Rusty Howell of Howell Oil and Gas of Marshall and president of the Marshall Economic Development Corporation, was moderated by vice chair Steve Dean of Texas Forest Products of Gilmer after Howell stepped aside to avoid a conflict of interest.

After listening to proposals from Henderson County, Rusk County, Smith and Cherokee counties, Palestine and Anderson County and Harrison County, the 23-member selection committee scored each proposal in 10 different categories with a maximum of 10 points per category.

The score was determined by taking the total points received and dividing by the number of scored cards.

Although there were 23 committee members, several committee members could not score proposals due to a conflict of interest as out lined in the ETCOG’s conflict of interest policy.

Palestine received 1,600 points for an average of 72.72; Rusk received the next highest score of 1,339 for an average of 63.7; Henderson received 1,338 points for an average of 66.9; Harrison County received 1,287 for an average of 67.73 and Smith and Cherokee counties received 1,199 points for an average of 59.95.

“We had five outstanding proposals,” Dean said. “There was a pretty fine line between them.”

Each presenter was allowed 15 minutes to give an oral presentation followed by a question and answer session from members of the committee.

“This is your chance to vet out and review everything,” Mark Sweeney said. “You are choosing a site to represent East Texas, so don’t hold back.”

At the end of the presentations and before any scoring was done, each presenter was allowed two minutes to recap the proposal.

After 30 minutes of scoring and 45 minutes of tallying and double checking the scores were announced.

“I am proud that we conducted a fair and smooth meeting where all the counties came together to select the best site for East Texas and came away with no hard feelings,” Howell said. “We worked very hard to eliminate all conflicts of interest.”

Representing Palestine was Palestine Economic Development President Fred Richardson, Anderson County Judge Carey McKinney and Dr. Tom Temples.

PEDC Executive Director Brian Malone fielded questions asked by the committee, of which he was a member.

“I am very proud of Anderson County; we were well represented going against larger counties,” McKinney said. “The people of Anderson County should be proud of the hard work that went into the presentation; lot of hard work by PEDC members and community members in a short period of time.

“This just goes to show what we can do as a community when we come together and work as a unit,” he added.

The judge expressed his excitement about getting to represent East Texas in the site search and his willingness to work with the surrounding counties to make the proposal the best in the state.

Richardson also was ecstatic about Palestine’s score and being chosen to represent the region at the state level.

“We are so excited and proud of the community for all the effort they put into this proposal on such short notice,” Richardson said. “Just like I said during my presentation to the committee, the RFP (request for proposal) was just written for the area.”

Richardson pointed out to the committee that the site — the old ALCOA site just outside of Palestine on U.S. 79 — is a ready-made site for the construction of the facility.

“The infrastructure is already there,” Richardson said. “You have the waste water treatment facilities; the water supply; and pipeline and plans to construct a second one; railroad and interstate infrastructure; electrical lines and a TXU substation; all on site.”

He said these features make the site a ready-to-build site and if chosen as the national site, will speed up construction time by more than a year; saving the non-profit research and energy facility time and money.

The next step, according to Sweeney, is to prepare the selected presentation for competition at the state level.

“We will take the proposal and make it the best proposal possible,” Sweeney said.

The ETCOG will meet today to ratify the committee’s selection.

At the state level, Sweeney only is expecting five or six proposals.

“Of the 24 COGS, only 18 turned in letters expressing interest and of those, only a few, five maybe six, including the proposal from us, were expected to be competitive sites,” he added. “According to the literature we were one of the best locations in the state.”

Sweeney said all of the presentations were great, but in his opinion the one from Palestine and Anderson County was the best.

“There was not one of the five that would not have worked,” Sweeney said. “But Palestine-Anderson County was the best choice. Brian and his folks really brought this thing to the table and we were very impressed with the presentation.”

Howell said there were some problems with the proposal, but they were addressable.

“I think they have a problem with the merchandising of the byproducts and the labor market,” he said. “They need to have better access to airports but these are offset by so many good qualities.”

FutureGen is a $1 billion project that will combine a power generation facility and a research facility for future energy supplies funded by private businesses and the Department of Energy.

According to the FutureGen and DOE Web sites, the emissions-free 275-megawatt power plant and research facility will generate electricity, produce hydrogen, and capture carbon dioxide.

The power plant will use a carbon capture technique to make the plant as close to emission free as possible.

The plant will use a gasifier to convert coal into a synthesis gas made of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which is suited to make decarbonized energy after a cleanup process.

According to Sweeney, the facility will create between one and 400 permanent jobs and between 1,000 to 1,500 construction positions over two years.

The final proposals from the COGs are due in Austin by Jan. 9.

The ETCOG meeting, to confirm the committees’ nomination will be at the district office in Kilgore at 1 p.m. today.

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Sherryl-Lynn Williams can be reached via e-mail at swilliams@palestineherald.com

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