Debate Affecting Biomass Power Plant

Tony Callendrello would rather be on the phone setting up deals to buy wood waste. Instead, the developer of 'Nacogdoches Power', a proposed $300-million biomass power plant in Nacogdoches County is phoning state senators. Callendrello can't understand the debate going on in the Texas Capitol.  " A number of states have renewable portfolios that include biomass. I've never heard this argument that it's some how going to steal fuel supplies away from forest product companies that rely on it."

But that's Temple Inland's stand and it may be winning. State Representative Wayne Christian's subsidy legislation breezed through the House, but is at a standstill in the Senate. Callendrello said, " We're keeping our fingers crossed that an agreement can be reached."

Temple Inland contends the subsidies would be unfair to existing wood product companies, cost people their jobs and make wood products more expensive. Economic developers are fighting back. They want the jobs 'Nacogdoches Power' will bring. Callendrello explained,  " We offer something the timber companies don't and that's a long term contract. We are willing to do contracts of 10 years or even longer and that's a stability that these loggers and other mill owners have really never seen."

Temple is only responding publicly to the argument through editorial letters and company statements. "Nacogdoches Power and any new industry should be welcomed in East Texas. We need more jobs as well as a more diverse energy supply. However, attracting new jobs at the expense of an existing industry trying to compete globally simply won't help anyone," writes T-I's government affairs vice president Tony Bennett.   The company also stated, " is 'not' trying to stop any East Texas biomass project, but only the subsidies that would endanger existing jobs."

Economic developers call them 'incentives' and say without them there will 'not' be a biomass power plant. Callendrello said if the battle is lost, the whole state loses.    " This is bigger issue than simply who's using wood. This is an incentive to install renewable energy and it is something benefiting all of Texas."

A political battle, that for now has reached no compromise.