KILGORE — The East Texas Council of Governments Executive Committee approved the Palestine/Anderson County-proposed FutureGen site to represent the 18 counties in the council Friday.

Of the 17-member committee, 15 members were present and 13 members voted to accept the recommendation of the ETCOG’s FutureGen Site Selection Committee while two members abstained from voting.

“Palestine was the clearcut winner of the voting,” chairman of the site selection committee Rusty Howell said. “The committee unanimously voted in support of the winner and the presentation.”

He said that after the meeting the leaders of the other counties represented by proposals were offering support to the Palestine/Anderson County proposal.

Anderson County Judge Carey McKinney, who also is an ETCOG Executive Committee member, said it was a tough chore to go through all the proposals.

“It was not about who would win, but the best proposal and what was best for East Texas,” McKinney said. “I am proud to be a part of it and look forward to working with everyone to make the best proposal possible.”

Before the vote by the ETCOG, Palestine Economic Development Director Fred Richardson presented the winning proposal to the ETCOG for their review.

At the end of the presentation, Richardson gave the ETCOG the same promises he made to the Palestine City Council.

“I pledged that I would not turn in a proposal just to turn in a proposal,” Richardson said. “If I turn one in I am turning it in to win; I want to bring (FutureGen) to East Texas.”

Richardson said he would be calling on all of the committee members for their support and help.

“As I told them yesterday, with the site all they have to do is punch the easy button,” he added.

Palestine has a commitment from the North American Coal Corp for 100 million tons of lignite coal and from Kennecott Energy for 130 trillion tons of reserve coal.

Palestine has abundant access to biomass from logging and other sources for the experimental energy facility.

The former ALCOA site, is 7 miles east of Palestine on U.S. 79 and has access to three U.S. highways and two Texas highways as well as access to a class 1 railroad, the Union Pacific.

The City of Palestine has committed two billion gallons of water per year for 20 years for the project.

The site is equipped with a railyard, equipment for unloading coal, a waste water treatment facility, a 27-inch water line and plans to add a second water line if needed. In addition, the site has a TXU substation and electrical transmission lines.

Because the site has been pre-approved for a power plant, it has all the environmental permits, which can be renewed for an additional five years.

Richardson and the rest of the committee plans to review the other proposals to pull the best parts of them to add to the existing proposal to make it stronger.

“The Anderson County folks did a great job,” committee member Bobby McClenny said. “If Texas gets it, then the effects of the facility will be far-reaching for hundreds of miles; we just have to win at the state level.”

Of the 14 counties in the ETCOG, six submitted proposals and out of the 24 COGs in the state, only 18 submitted letters to the Bureau of Economic Energy.

“All the members need to get behind it and make it work for the region,” ETCOG Executive Director Glynn McKnight said.

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.

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

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

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, the Web site stated.

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.

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