Environmentalists Exult while Town Mourns

The private equity buyout of Texas Utilities that was brokered in such a way as to appease environmental groups has brought despair to one Texas town:

In Colorado City and surrounding Mitchell County, “there were lots of long faces,” Mayor Jim Baum says. “The plant would have been our salvation, even more so than the discovery of oil.”

Up to 3,000 workers would have poured in for three years of construction, spending their pay at local stores. The plant, once operating, would have provided more than 100 high-paying jobs and hundreds more in support businesses. Tax revenue from TXU’s estimated $1 billion investment could have cut local taxes in half, Baum says…

Soon after canceling the eight plants, TXU pledged to develop two facilities that would capture carbon dioxide instead of releasing it.

The eight Texas locations that lost their proposed plants hope to get one of those. “We might get the plant we lost in another form before this is all over,” says Mount Pleasant Mayor Jerry Boatner, who had expected a 30% boost in the city’s tax base.

Mitchell County and Colorado City want to be ready. Anticipating a conventional plant, the city had hurried up plans for $8 million in water and sewer improvements to handle housing that developers promised to build for an influx of newcomers. Schools were ready to acquire temporary classrooms for the children of construction workers.

Developers said they would build two motels on Interstate 20 through town. Cecilia Scott, director of Main Street revitalization, says new businesses would have filled most of the empty storefronts.

“So many people I know had made so many plans,” says Pat Taylor, a police officer here since 1982…

The city ran a campaign to get 1,000 signatures on a letter to TXU supporting the plant; 2,600 signed.

Before the utility withdrew the plants, Dallas Mayor Laura Miller lobbied Texas towns to oppose them.

Dallas is under pressure to clean its air or risk losing highway money.

Miller asked officials across the state to contribute to a fund to fight the plants. “She didn’t bother wasting the postage on me,” Baum says.

It is odd that decisions made in the name of the future so rarely take account of the real costs they impose right now.