Odessa group believes area's top choice for power plant

Staff Report

The Associated Press

ODESSA, Texas (AP) - To hear those pushing to bring a one-of-a-kind coal power plant to Odessa, FutureGen is nearly a slam dunk.

They boast of the international airport, infrastructure of needed pipelines and energy expertise from decades of oil production.

The only thing the Permian Basin city lacks -- which the other Texas site and the two in Illinois have -- is coal. Odessa would have to bring coal in by train.

But even without a nearby fuel source for the 275-megawatt, cutting-edge power plant, people working to bring it to West Texas are confident.

FutureGen Texas regional coordinator and geologist Hoxie Smith says he believes Odessa is "at the top of the list."

The other sites are Jewett, a town of 860 about 135 miles northwest of Houston, and Tuscola and Mattoon, two towns 20 miles apart in eastern Illinois.

The proposed West Texas plant site is in Penwell, a former oil boomtown with 74 residents about 15 miles southwest of Odessa.

State officials say spin-off jobs would add to the economies of Odessa and smaller, nearby cities and increase their populations.

Since the 1980s, West Texas has seen population dwindle and economy shrivel as oil production costs rose. But the Permian Basin and other areas in the region are aiming to become an energy center again, including alternative and renewable sources. Odessa, where hotel rooms are nearly impossible to book during the week because of the region's resurgent oil business, is exploring wind and geothermal energy.