Unfinished Coal Plant in Robertson County Could Be Revived

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If TXU Power's wish is granted, an abandoned pile of rusting steel in Robertson County could be the first and largest of a new generation of Texas coal plants.

"We're hoping to start construction probably some time next year," said Don Montgomery, Manager of TXU Power.

TXU started building the Oak Grove plant in the 80s, but the project was called off in the early 90s when natural gas prices plunged, making it more economical than coal as a fuel source.

But now that has all changed. Natural gas has sky rocketed, which means the project is back on.

"This is a project by which we can utilize lignite to make electricity at an affordable cost for Texans," said Montgomery.

The idea of Oak Grove, a $2 billion project, makes "cents" to County Judge Fred Elliott who says it will expand the tax base and jump start the local economy.

"I certainly do not want to take the lively hood of others and most especially their children that they get to stay here and live. There will be jobs for them to live," said Judge Fred Elliott, Robertson County.

TXU power has not filed for a tax abatement for the project, But Elliott says commissioners will consider the option if one is requested.

"I'm not going to fight it. Now if I think it is going to be bad I will voice my opinion, but if it's not going to kill or cripple our people then I'm going to manage it," said Elliott.

Elliott says so far most citizens seem to support the project. In fact, the only major opposition has come from statewide environmental groups, but TXU says residents shouldn't worry, because their emissions will be regulated.

"We're in the process to trying to get an air permit through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in Austin," said Montgomery.

If those permits come through construction on the Oak Grove plant could wrap up, more than two decades after it began.