Clearing the Air on Power Plant Issues

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02-19-07 TXU is currently proposing 11 coal-fired power plants across the state, including one plant in Savoy. A weeklong series, "Clearing the Air," will take a closer look at possible effects the plant might have on the economy, health, and even your pocketbook.

The plant has been the topic of many town hall meetings, forums, commissioners courts, and hearings all across the area. The issue is more complex than a two hour meeting here and there, and has become a hotbed of discussion.

"There's a great demand for power," said Tom Kleckner, a TXU spokesman. "It's growing, we need to address those demands immediately."

While others say it's a hazard.

"There is no such thing as a clean coal plant," said Tim Greeff, with the National Resource Defense Council.

City and County officials are trying to make decisions on where they stand. Grayson County Commissioner Jackie Crisp said it's important for commissioners to hear public input before votes are cast.

Other communities have lived near these coal-burning plants for years. Mount Pleasant, Texas is just two hours away. It's home to TXU's Monticello Generating Plant.

"I think that TXU, the tax base has been very helpful to taxpayers in this county and they pay about 40% of our county taxes," said Mike Fields, a Titus County Commissioner.

Environmental factors also come into the debate, including emissions like carbon dixoide. Levels of CO2 aren't regulated by the federal government. Other by-products of burning coal are regulated, like mercury emissions.

"They're locking Texans into another 50 years of these pollutants because the average age of a coal plant is 50-60 years," Greeff said.

TXU officials maintain they are using the best available control technologies. They also live and work in the areas where plants are located and are concerned about the environment.

Engineers say technologies in the plants will cut back on emissions and clean Texas air by 20 percent. They plan to use machinery like sorbent injections and scrubbers to filter out potentially toxic emissions.

Environmentalists argue there are other options on the table like efficiency and renewable energy. They say other options would be even cleaner than the cleanest coal technologies.

ERCOT, the organizations that manages the Texas electrical grid, released a report stating at its current rate, bt 2009 the state's power reserve will dip below acceptable levels.

"Any delay to our program just brings us that much closer to the potential of rolling blackouts, higher prices, kinds of problems that California faced in years past," Kleckner said.

This is in addition to high electric bills many residents face each month.

At KXII, we will try and take a closer look at the possible effects of something so small, like a piece of coal, creating so much controversy.

Join us in our series, "Clearing the Air."

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