Is ‘Dirty’ Deely Coal Plant Closure Suddenly Fungible?

Party for Deely's retirement

False Start? San Antonians have been ready to celebrate the closure of our most polluting coal plant for a decade. Here we send off the Deely Coal Monster with solar lanterns at the annual Earth Day. Image: Greg Harman

‘I think we need to have a discussion,’ CPS Energy CEO told the the utility’s Board of Trustees on Monday regarding previous longstanding promises to close the polluting plant this year.

Greg Harman

Slated for closure by end of the year, CPS Energy’s “Dirty” Deely coal plant’s future (and the millions of tons of climate pollution that goes with it) grew a little hazier this week.

CPS CEO Paula Gold-Williams held firm to the company line in the days following Trump’s announcement that he intended to kick coal pollution regulations downstream to the states.

When asked if Trump’s desired rollback of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan for the Orwellian “Affordable Clean Energy Rule,”* PGW told the San Antonio Business Journal:

“CPS Energy is committed to our path toward more economically viable diversification, while partnering to lower emissions across our metropolitan community.”

Correct answer.

Gold-Williams

CEO Gold-Williams

However, at the utility’s monthly Board of Trustees this Monday, PGW let her guard drop.

Asked by a board member if that closure plan still holds firm—particularly in light of a just-completed, glowing review of CPS summer profits reaped (in part) by selling polluting Deely power into the state power grid—PGW equivocated.

“Um, we need to look at the plans and work with the [Texas State Legislature] and decide how they are going to work through now the empowerments and authorities that they have to deal with. And we will be talking to them,” she said.

“But at this point in time there is no change off of the current plan. We are still scheduled to shut down Deely at the end of the year. But we will be on it. We will try to figure out if there will be any modifications or change in directions.”

Translation: For now (and we mean right, right now) the plan holds. As to the weeks ahead as Trump’s desired new rules materialize, we’ll just have to see.

Chief Operating Officer Cris Eugster held more firmly to the closure terms worked out more than a decade ago with active community groups who advocated early retirement in exchange for not requiring CPS Energy to install tens of millions of dollars of costly pollution controls.

Cris Eugster

COO Cris Eugster

Eugster defended the early retirement agreement by speaking of those avoided scrubber costs, before adding there are also “water issues,” and “waste product issues” with the plant. He concluded flatly, “It makes more sense to shut it down this year.”

But PGW wasn’t finished complexifying a previously sorted issue, in somewhat disjointed verse.

“I think we need to have a discussion after we get through this summer and think about it so we can reapprove of what we’ve stated,” she said. “It was critical to have it open for this year. Now every year … it doesn’t always perform. It’s gonna cost us a couple of tens of millions of dollars. It does that at a minimum every year you have it open. Then we still have the non-attainment issue.

“So we will bring that forward before we get to the end of the year to talk again about how we got there and what were the implications and how did we get to the decision. What we’ll be able to assess with states on the Clean Power Plan as well. And then we’ll also be able to talk to the state regulators about what type of pressure taking a plant out will put in the [state electrical grid] system and whether or not there’s a good plan for that as well.”

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‘Affordable Clean Energy Rule’ Orwellian speak? You decide: Read “Cost of New E.P.A. Coal Rules: Up to 1,400 More Deaths a Year.”