Coal Power Plants Part of Community

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While communities across the state are trying to decide if they want coal powered plants in their areas, one community has lived with one of those plants for three decades.

The Monticello power plant is located in the heart of Titus County in Mount Pleasant, Texas.

"We're providing a very vital service to the community," said Wayne Harris, TXU plant director. "When you turn on the lightswitch, you want the lights to come on. We make the electricity that allows it to happen."

Construction on the plant began in 1974, and by 1978 three units were fired up. Each unit runs off of lignite coal and River Basin coal. The lignite is mined nearby and the River Basin coal comes from Wyoming, brought in by rail.

"It's become a way of life for our community," said Tommy James, president of the Mount Pleasant Chamber of Commerce.

County officials say TXU makes up about 40 percent of the county's tax base, putting thousands of dollars into three school systems.

Development directors have seen the positive side to have the electric corporation in town.

"They have, by far, the best salaries across the board," said Charlie Smith, with the Mount Pleasant Industrial Development Foundation. "When TXU moved here they raised a lot of boats. The phrase: When one boat rises, all boats rise. TXU did that when they came to Titus County."

The plant is surrounded by three lakes: Lake Monticello, Lake Cypress Springs, and Lake Bob Sandlin.

The lakes are the source of the city's drinking water, and officials say it's safe.

"Our quality of life, we don't wake up and have dust coal and things like that on the cars," said Mike Fields, a Titus County Commissioner.

Fields lives about three miles from the plant on a cattle farm.

Opponents to the plant say the situation in the town may live up to its name of being, well, pleasant. However eleven power plants across the state would have negative results.

"Global warming is a big issue and it's been in the headlines," said Jonathan Castro, an opponent to the plant. "And so, it's not a thing you're going to see in the day to day. It's a cumulitive time calendar thing."

The Mount Pleasant residents interviewed said they would have concerns too if a power plant was about to be built for the first time. A Town Hall meeting concerning the construction of a fourth unit received a room full of support.

"Do your own research and be your own judge," James said. "In the end, I'll think they'll find out that TXU is going to be good for their community."

While there may be postitive economic impacts for a power plant, opponents wonder if that boost is worth the price of our health. In our Thursday edition of "Clearing the Air," we'll take a look at possible environmental impacts and get to the bottom of technologies TXU says will improve the state's air quality by 20 percent.

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