Coal is dead, long live coal: updated

Dynegy’s recent announcement it was backing away from a joint venture to develop new coal plants was seen by some as another nail in the coffin of the key power plant fuel. But Texas and Illinois lawmakers are hoping to keep hope alive under the “clean coal” banner.

wa_parish The W.A. Parish Power Plant in Fort Bend County, owned and operated by NRG Energy, is one of the largest in the nation. The plant plans on installing equipment to capture up to 1 million tons of C02 from its smoke stacks per year. (For the Chronicle/Gary Fountain)

Illinois just passed a law that provides $18 million for studies that would clear the way for a coal power plant project that would have significantly cleaner emissions than standard coal plants, and capture and bury up to 50 percent of its remaining carbon dioxide emissions.
And Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, has filed a bill in the Texas legislature that would, among other things, waive up to $100 million in franchise taxes for coal plants that use integrated gasification combined cycle technology, or IGCC.

“People are afraid, the industry’s afraid, to go and try to build a clean coal plant. I call it the prototype penalty,” King told the Dallas Morning News.

UPDATE: A companion bill has been filed in the Texas Senate.
A small number of IGCC plants are in operation around the country, and more have been proposed in recent years but were later cancelled due to cost concerns.
Former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller is helping a firm called Summit Power build such a plant in Odessa, at a site that was in the running for the federally-backed FutureGen project (an Illinois site won the competition but the Department of Energy later pulled its funding support).
NRG Energy has applied for an air permit for an IGCC plant in South Texas, and Luminant, the power generation business of the former TXU, has said it is considering building an IGCC facility.

“The reason there are legislators that are interested in this kind of plant is that Texas has the opportunity to be ground zero in the country for carbon capture and sequestration,” Miller said in the DMN story.

In addition to the $100 million franchise tax credit, the bill gives a tax incentive to any oil company that uses CO2 from such a plant for enhanced oil recovery and it requires the University of Texas’ Bureau of Economic Geology to monitor the sites where the CO2 is stored to ensure it doesn’t escape.

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