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Groundbreaking Confirmed For Clean Coal Plant In Texas

Our  Fronteras Desk reporter at Marfa Public Radio, Lorne Matalon reports.

A so-called "clean coal" power plant project will break ground in the Permian Basin of West Texas in a matter of weeks. The burgeoning oil and gas extraction needs more energy to sustain a boom that geologists predict will last as long as 70 years.

Every day, you can hear oil rigs operating around the clock. It’s the sound of money in the Permian Basin of West Texas, oil rigs sucking crude from the shale 500 feet below in Midland and Odessa.

But the region’s rapidly expanding infrastructure needs more energy. The plant, known as the Texas Clean Energy Project, has just closed on a billion-dollar investment from China’s Import-Export Bank to go along with a half billion in U.S. federal government funding.

Odessa’s Director of Economic Development Guy Andrews said environmental concerns are unfounded — namely that project opponents claim that ‘clean coal’ is an oxymoron.

”And then by capturing 90 percent of the emissions that makes it very clean. That’s far beyond what the government is expecting," Andrews said.

Groundbreaking is expected to start within weeks after numerous delays and upward budget revisions. The Sierra Club has issued a statement saying there’s no such thing as "clean coal."

Project proponents claim the 400 megawatts the plant will produce is only part of the benefit to the region. By-products created in the power generation process with be used to fertilize area farms while the project recycle and reuse most of the water it needs to burn the coal.