In the 1980s, TXU began building a large electrical power plant designed to burn local lignite – brown coal – in Robertson County, Texas. The facility is called Oak Grove. J. B. Smith, a Herald-Tribune staff writer, published a story about the project titled Robertson County plant seen as an economic boost by some, polluter by others in the Waco, Texas Tribune.
The availability of cheap natural gas caused the utility to temporarily abandon the project after sinking about a half a billion dollars into it. (For the nukes out there, it is important to learn that other types of power generation facilities besides nuclear have had troubled pasts and have occasionally been halted after large financial losses.)
The market has shifted, natural gas is no longer cheap and the Texas electrical power demand continues to increase. TXU is therefore working on recovering its investment and bringing the Oak Grove lignite plant to life. This plan is not without controversy; the plant will be a large source of a number of fairl nasty emissions including mercury, NOx, SOx, fly ash and CO2. On the plus side, however, the plant will burn a local resource, provide as many as 650 jobs between the plant and the associated lignite mine and represent a large addition to the local tax base.
Local environmental groups are fighting the project, but seem almost resigned to its completion. However, they are working diligently to enforce requirements to make the plant as clean as possible using best available technology.
It is interesting to note, however, why TXU has chosen lignite as the fuel source for the needed electrical power plant:
“We’ve got to meet the power demands of Texas in some way,” Jones (TXU vice president in charge of Oak Grove generating plant project) said. “We can’t rely on renewables to meet all the needs of the state. Natural gas has priced itself away. Environmentalists don’t want nuclear power. Coal is safe, it’s reliable and it’s Texas-based.”
The real question here is whether or not the company actually asked the “Environmentalists” to make a choice between lignite combustion and nuclear fission. I am quite sure that they did not consult the environment itself, since nuclear fission produces NONE of the nasties that are produced when burning brown coal, the stuff that made East Germany such a garden spot.