Aspen Power struggle could be over

By Holley Nees - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Aspen Power now sees the end of a battle that's lasted nearly two years.

Aspen's president said a settlement agreement will allow the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to re-issue their air quality permit.

The confidential agreement comes two days prior to the commission hearing. Aspen Power does not have the permit in-hand, but expects to see it early next week, which means construction could resume. Aspen President Danny Vines said while it's been an uphill struggle, losing millions of dollars along the way, the project will be worthwhile.

Nine months after construction had been ordered to stop on what was set to be Texas' first biomass plant, Aspen Power is now getting ready to finish what they started.

"It has been a long and lengthy process, but we've stayed the course," said Vines.  "It's going to have a huge economic impact to the City of Lufkin."

They expect to see their air quality permit within days which means a green light for nearly 200 people to complete a multi-million dollar construction job.

"It's been quiet, not as many people as we are used to working around, but we are looking forward to everybody coming back," said Aspen Power Heavy Equipment Operator Kenny Woodson.

Vines said they've reached an agreement with protestors and they'll be upgrading their emission controls on the plant with the latest technology for $8 million. However, he said it's all worth it.

"It has been an uphill battle though, but we have stayed the course, and we have prevailed," Vines said.

Vines said they've set the bar for future biomass plants and now his employees said the hardest part is almost behind them.

"Having all these people sitting at home not having a job...and those were people that have families and kids and no money coming in," said Aspen Power Construction Supervisor Woody Evans.

While Vines said the whole ordeal is not how it should've happened, he's proud the project is now slated to be in the works.

"When you get in the game, you can't quit," said Vines.  "You play the game to be successful and win. This project would not have been for the faint of heart."

"The hardest part in waiting for the air permit is trying to find something to do," said Aspen Power Heavy Equipment Operator Rodney Richards.  "Now, we [have] got something to do...that is the hardest part, waiting...but I think our wait is over with."

Vines said they'll be re-hiring shortly for 150 to 200 construction jobs over the next nine to 11 months and the plant will require 55 permanent positions.

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