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Opposing views on Coal Plant

By adriana_acosta
Sept. 1, 2010 at 4:01 a.m.

   adriana_acosta for The Victoria Advocate

Nate McDonald announced Tuesday night he does not support White Stallion Energy Center.

In a town hall meeting to discuss the importance of water, McDonald told the audience he has not yet received the contractual obligation from Randy Bird, chief executive officer of White Stallion Energy Center that he requested from him.

Some of the requirements McDonald asked in the letter include issues on the environment, water supply, the economy and the tax base.

“At this point the majority of the commissioner’s court is not in favor of this project,” he told the audience.

The town hall meeting was hosted by the No Coal Coalition to discuss the importance of water and how the energy plant could impact Matagorda County.

Guest speakers included water resource specialist, rice farmers and an ecosystem specialist.

“We have done a good business diagnosis and without a contractual obligation to this county, without things that are known to be true, I don’t see this moving forward in a good way for the county,” he said.

The project, once operational, is expected to contribute $10 million to $20 million per year in direct taxes to the Bay City school district, Matagorda Fiscal Court, Matagorda County Hospital, Port of Bay City and Reclamation and Conservation District.

Rice farmers and fishermen voiced concerns at the town hall meeting about the damage the energy center could do the county if it builds.

Rice production in Matagorda County generates about $45 million in gross crop revenue and sustains employment to more than 500 people, said Paul Sliva, who is a third-generation rice farmer and chairman of the Matagorda County Water Committee.

Water used for rice farming could be threatened by bringing in the energy center, he said.

“White Stallion is a potential thread to the future of rice farmers,” he said. “We contribute to the economy and help the environment.”

Rice fields also provide sustenance and resting areas to wild life, he said.

"Rice farmers at this point and time are against the commitment of any new firm water contracts by the LCRA until future water supplies can be established," he said.

In attendance was Bird who attended the town hall meeting to listen to what residents had to say.

"I am here to hear what the citizens of the county have to say and answer any questions they may have," he said.

Bird told the audience he had met with the Lower Colorado River Authority on water needs for the plant and was told there was available water.

White Stallion Energy Center submitted an application to the Lower Colorado River Authority for a water contract in 2008. The application is to request 22,000 acre-feet of firm water per year.

The water contracted will come from the Highland Lakes.

In meeting with county officials, he said he would do anything he could to reduce the use of water for the plant.

"We have listened and we want to do what's right and we don't want to kill the rice farming industry or the bay sanctuaries," he said.

Bird said he wants the energy center to be the cleanest plant in America and wants to do what's right and be good neighbors in the county.

"This is a long process," he explained.

Bird said has been working in the White Stallion project for more than three years.

White Stallion does not yet have a permit, a contract to buy water or a contract for construction.

"I don't have financing so I am a long way from committing to making a promise that I can't keep," he said about why he has not provided what McDonald is requesting.

Bird emphasized the need for electricity in Texas and said 1,500 people come to the state each day.

"Electricity is going to come from somewhere," he said. "This is a commercial operation and we are going to try to make this as cheaply as possible, to sale it on the grid and keep everyone's electricity low."

White Stallion is in the final stages of getting permits completed and the beginning phases for getting contracts for water, construction and for coal and limestone, he said.

Bird said he is disappointed the county judge said he would not support White Stallion.

“We are surprised that the judge views Matagorda County as closed for business in the middle of a deep local recession,” he said.

Bird said local residents have approached them interested in employment.

“They have told us they want jobs for themselves and their families. They want their county to grow,” he added.

Judge McDonald’s seven issues cannot honestly be promised to Matagorda County before the project has secured the resources to fulfill those promises, said Bird. “We just don’t do business that way.”

White Stallion will continue to work toward satisfactorily answering McDonald’s concerns in the natural course of development, he said.

"I have a process to achieve all the goals that he's wanted us to achieve and we are going to try to achieve them, unfortunately they are not on his time frame," he said.

"He's been wanting answers now and I have not gotten my first permit yet, it is tough for me to give him answers of things that are way down the pipe in our development process."



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