Gibbons Creek Steam Electric Station

The coal-fired power plant at Gibbons Creek Steam Electric Station is owned by the Texas Municipal Power Agency, created by the cities of Denton, Garland, Bryan and Greenville to produce electricity. The plant is about 20 miles east of College Station.

For years, the Texas Municipal Power Agency has unsuccessfully negotiated the sale of a coal plant owned by Denton and other cities.

But on Thursday, the TMPA’s luck seemingly changed, as the organization announced its intent to sell much of the Gibbons Creek Steam Electric Station to Gibbons Creek Environmental Redevelopment Group.

Tony Puente

Tony Puente

“The decision to basically mothball the coal plant was an economic decision,” said Tony Puente, Denton Municipal Electric general manager. “It would have cost us $90 million in decommission and remediation costs.”

Gibbons Creek Environmental Redevelopment Group is a subsidiary of Charah Solutions. It will assume control of the offline power plant, cooling reservoir, associated landfills and ash ponds located about 20 miles east of College Station, according to a news release. The sale does not include the mine and transmission system.

The TMPA release shows that the sale is “still in the negotiation phase.”

“Once negotiations are completed and a final agreement is posted for consideration and action by the TMPA board, the proposed agreement will become public information, and additional details of the transaction will be available for public consideration,” the release states.

According to Charah’s website, the Gibbons Creek Reservoir RV Park and campground will remain open.

The Denton Record-Chronicle reported in June that Denton officials and those with the other member cities — Bryan, Garland and Greenville — thought they had a buyer for the plant. But that deal fell apart. Four years earlier, Denton Municipal Electric announced it wanted to end its involvement in the coal-fired operation — the Gibbons Creek Steam Electric Station — by summer 2018. But Denton and the other cities were unable to sell the plant, and they delayed decommissioning for at least two more years.

The TMPA news release shows that Gibbons Creek Environmental “will be responsible for the shutdown and decommissioning of the retired power plant, as well as for the performance of the environmental remediation and closure operations associated with the power plant’s landfills and ash ponds. The transaction is expected to save TMPA and its member cities millions of dollars in avoided environmental remediation costs.”

Before the sale can be completed, Denton and the other member municipalities must approve the transaction, Puente said.

“TMPA cannot sell off individual assets,” he said.

In a Charah news release on the company’s website, officials announced it will take ownership of the plant area that includes the spillway.

“Many utilities are experiencing an increased need to retire and decommission older or less economically viable generating assets while minimizing costs and maximizing the value of the assets and improving the environment,” Charah president and CEO Scott Sewell said in the release.

In 2015, the Record-Chronicle reported that DME officials wanted to wean the city off fossil fuels and focus on more renewable energy for power generation.

Jesse Davis

Jesse Davis

“The council has not been fully briefed” on the negotiated sale of the plant, District 3 council member Jesse Davis said. “The information I’m really looking for is the final dollars and cents and what the buyer wants to do with the property. It’s (the power plant) been closed for some time. We’ve been in the process of decommissioning the plant, but that is a very expensive process.”

Denton, Bryan, Garland and Greenville created TMPA in 1975, that agency’s website shows.

“The purpose of this agency was, and is, to provide an economical power supply to the member cities for resale to their customers,” the website states. “Next, the cities approved construction of the mine, Bryan Lignite No. 1. By 1983, the plant had changed names to Gibbons Creek Steam Electric Station, and it was ready for commercial operation. The plant was designed for a capacity of 405 net megawatt hours.”

The plant went online in October 1983.

PAUL BRYANT can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @paulbryant_DRC.

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