Tallahassee to Continue With Taylor Energy Center for Now

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In a 3-2 vote, the Tallahassee City Commission decided to move forward with the Taylor Energy Center, the proposed coal plant in Taylor County. However, that doesn't mean coal is a done deal in Florida's Capital City.

A majority of the commission agreed with staff recommendations to choose a five-year resource plan that not only includes the continued participation with TEC, but an aggressive conservation plan and the purchase of biomass fuels.

Commissioners Andrew Gillum and Allan Katz voted against the option.

Katz said, "I think we're making some progress, but I'm really disappointed in the results. My hope is in the next year or two my fellow commissioners will see the fact that this is not what we can afford, it's bad for the environment, it's bad for the community."

Katz isn't the only one disappointed.

Holly Binns with Environment Florida said, "We are disappointed that we're going to continue to be a partner in the plant."

However, Binns said she was encouraged to hear some commissioners acknowledge the environmental affects of pulverized coal technologies, which is planned for TEC.

Commissioner Andrew Gillum added in the motion to ask TEC officials to consider cleaner coal technologies like Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle, or IGCC.

Gillum said, "If we can't get their consideration, then I would argue the point that the ability to shape the future of the plant is not true, that we sold ourselves and the community a ‘bill of coal.’”

The city can still drop out of the TEC deal and not buy in as 20 percent owners. During the next couple of years, city staff say they will continue to monitor the progression of cleaner technologies like IGCC and evaluate other fuel alternatives.

Commissioner Debbie Lightsey said Wednesday's decision is just one part of Tallahassee's long-term energy future, adding, "A lot can happen in five years."

In the meantime, the city will pursue an aggressive conservation plan, re-power the Hopkins Two unit, which will help increase efficiency, and purchase biomass fuel from the BG&E plant once it's built in Tallahassee.

The Georgia based company is paying to build the 30MW plant in Tallahassee, as long as the city agrees to purchase the power.

Steve Urse with the Big Bend Climate Action Team said although he is disappointed the city's continued involvement with TEC.

"We're happy they're pushing the aggressive efficiency and biomass."

City Utilities says a final decision on Tallahassee's participation with the Taylor Energy Center will not come until 2008 when the construction phase begins.