West Texas Leaders Stay Positive with No FutureGen

By Wyatt Goolsby
NewsWest 9

No future for FutureGen in West Texas. After years of trying to bring in the billion dollar project, the announcement Tuesday made it known: it's going to Mattoon, Illinois. However, many are still keeping their chin up, despite the disappointing news.

"We were going to be winners either way," said Stephanie Sparkman, spokeswoman for the local FutureGen task force

"This is a great technology, and we have a great site," said Dr. David Watts, UTPB's President.

"We've just got a lot going on here in West Texas," said Hoxie Smith, the Task Force Coordinator.

You would think the decision from the FutureGen Alliance Tuesday wouldn't get a happy response. But even with the notice Penwell won't be the site for the near zero emitting power plant, many West Texans are tipping their hat to Mattoon, Illinois.

"They want to see it be successful in Illinois, so we can get a second or third plant here someday, and I think we've gone through a great process to show we're open for business in West Texas," explained Kirk Edwards, a member of the Task Force.

Right after hearing the decision, Texas House Representative Buddy West told NewsWest 9, "I'm disappointed, but we've got a lot of data and a lot of information that we can move forward on a project of our own probably."

And for members of the FutureGen task force, having done all of the research beforehand puts West Texas that much further along for the next potential project.

"From the very beginning, we knew that we would find out a lot of information from this process, and with that information if we didn't win it, we would go commercial," Sparkman explained.

Members also said during the process they discovered another important resource.

"I think a lot of people on our team realized how much water there is here in West Texas, it's just not on the surface, it's ground water, and with desalination technology making it more viable all the time. I think in a short period of time, we're going to find out that West Texas has a lot more water resources than people ever dreamed of," Smith said.

Task Force members said they think one reason why Odessa didn't win is because of all the natural coal available in parts of Illinois. They said, though, there will be more opportunities for energy-producing projects on the way.