Laura Miller—and New Friends—Tout “Clean” Coal

Laura Miller, the former muckraking journalist and political progressive who once battled TXU’s plan to build “dirty” coal plants in Texas, is hanging out with some strange bedfellows these days.

As the public face of Seattle-based Summit Power Group, which is trying to put up a $2 billion “clean coal” facility near Odessa, the former Dallas mayor works for a company whose chairman is Donald Hodel, a one-time cabinet member in the Reagan Administration.

And one of the investors in the Odessa project–which is called clean because it would “capture” up to 90 percent of carbon-dioxide emissions–is Clayton Williams, the West Texas oilman who once conducted a controversial GOP campaign for governor.

But all that, it seems, is ancient history now.

Reviewing the Odessa project for about 30 of us at D World Headquarters this noon, Miller explained that political conservatives and liberals alike have come together to build the “miracle” plant in West Texas, whose goal is to be the cleanest of its kind in the world.

The feds are kicking in $450 million in grants because the plant won’t just produce electricity, she went on. It will also throw off synthetic gas that can be used to make urea fertilizer for farmers; plus, she said, it will take all that C02 it “captures” and pump it down into the earth, somehow helping oilmen produce more oil.

(Ah; that’s where Claytie comes in, it would seem. Miller clarified, though, that Williams is really invested in the project mainly to make money, not to enhance his oil interests.)

The former mayor then recalled a conversation she once had with Erle Nye, the TXU chairman emeritus (and another strange bedfellow?). “Babe,” Miller quoted Nye as telling her, “you’ve got to be real patient with these coal plants–and you’re an impatient person.”

Impatient or not, she’s optimistic. If all goes as planned the Summit plant should break ground between September and December, Miller said, in time to go online by 2014.

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