Coleto Creek Power Plant sold

The Coleto Creek Power Plant's sale to a Houston-based company called Dynegy was finalized Feb. 7.

The Coleto Creek Power Plant's sale to a Houston-based company called Dynegy is final, but the plant's future remains uncertain.

Plant manager Robert Stevens said he wasn't aware of any plans to close the plant, lay off workers or convert the plant from producing coal to natural gas.

He deferred those questions to David Onufer, a spokesman for Dynegy. Onufer said he was unable to answer the questions Monday because company officials familiar with the plans for the plant were traveling and hard to reach.

The sale was finalized Feb. 7, according to a company news release.

Dynegy bought the plant and 16 others from Engie, previously known as GDF Suez, for $3.3 billion. Dynegy now owns six power plants in Texas. The Coleto Creek Power Plant is the only coal-fired plant it owns in Texas. It is able to produce 635 megawatts of energy.

The Coleto Creek Power Plant is in Fannin and has been in operation since 1980, Stevens said.

It currently employs 82 people. Its last layoff occurred in 1994 and was because of a company reorganization and new technology. Before that, it employed more than 120 people, he said.

Dynegy is the plant's fourth owner.

"I've been here since 1991, and I certainly don't want to see the plant shut down by any means, but as you know, this is sort of, I guess, a theme with a lot of coal plants, not just in Texas but around the country," Stevens said. "It's too many factors. It's competition due to the low price of natural gas and changing environmental regulations."

In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule that would require coal-fired power plants in Texas to make expensive upgrades or retrofits to cut sulfur dioxide emissions. Specifically, the Coleto Creek Power Plant would need to cut its sulfur dioxide emissions by 96 percent, according to previous reporting.

The public comment period for the rule, which seeks to reduce pollutants that impair visibility in national parks and wilderness areas, ends on March 6, EPA spokesman Joseph Hubbard said.

But the rule has been contested several times in court already.

For example, on Friday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, asked the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Washington, D.C., Circuit to review the rule.

"This rule requires expensive and excessive restrictions that will damage not only our economy but the livelihood of citizens across the state with little to no effect on the environment," Paxton wrote in a news release. "It is clear that the EPA has disregarded state-specific plans and successful environmental action in favor of continuing to expand their regulatory power over states."

The Coleto Creek Power Plant makes up about 40 percent of Goliad County's tax base. If it were to close, Goliad County would have to cut down on the services it provides to citizens, although it wouldn't cut down on public safety services, Goliad County Judge Pat Calhoun said.

"EMS, fire and the sheriff's office have to be fully-funded because that's the purpose of government: to protect our citizens," he said.

Calhoun said a large portion of the county's budget must be used for things the state requires, such as paying for the poor to have representation when they face criminal charges.

"Since the Fair Defense Act was passed in 2001, our expenditures on indigent defense has climbed 556 percent," Calhoun said.

Although the state reimburses the county for indigent defense, in 2016, the reimbursement was 15 percent of what the county paid, he said.

Calhoun looks forward to sitting down with Dynegy officials for coffee.

"We hope everybody is good neighbors and gets along. The guys currently out there at the plant get along great. They do everything they can to be part of the community. Of course, they are ruled by their corporate offices. I don't know anybody from Dynegy and I don't know if any of them know us," he said.

Dynegy has 50 power plants in 12 states. It provides electricity to 968,000 residential customers and 38,000 commercial, industrial and municipal customers.

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Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest has done a little bit of everything since moving to Victoria in 2012. She was a regular fixture in the Crossroads’ historic courthouses, but now slathers on the sunscreen to report on the environment.

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