Denton Power Plant Plan Draws Vocal Weekend Crowd

More than 150 people got up early Saturday to listen up, and in many cases speak out about two proposed gas power plants near the city of Denton.

Denton Municipal Electric held a public question and answer session at City Hall to discuss the Renewable Denton plan.

Announced in October of last year, Renewable Denton aims to increase the city’s energy grid from 40 to 70 percent renewable energy by the year 2019.

Denton Municipal Spokesperson Brian Daskam said that the city utility team was charged with the goal by the council last year and the plan would achieve it by investing more heavily in sources like wind and solar energy for customers.

In order to keep that system reliable and affordable though, the plan includes the creation of two natural gas power plants to be built as backups for days when those renewable energy sources aren’t enough; when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

That’s the part that had a lot of Denton residents speaking up Saturday.

The majority of the crowd wore stickers that said “Delay Plant Vote, Independent Study Needed,” and some even brought signs to hold outside of the council chambers in protest of the gas plants.

While the session was supposed to be a question and answer format, many of the residents took the opportunity to share their opposition to the plan based on environmental concerns, worries about noise, and other side-effects of the plants that would go near Aubrey and the Denton Enterprise Airport.

Some residents were especially concerned about the Aubrey site near Farm-to-Market Road 2153 and Shepard Road, where there are several homes very close by as well as a historic school building.

Another factor for many is Denton’s storied recent history with the natural gas industry.

Residents of the city voted 59 to 41 in November 2014 to ban fracking from Denton; a vote that was quickly overturned by the state of Texas last year, resulting in lawsuits, protests and even arrests as residents tried to block gas trucks from entering fracking sites in town.

"People voted against fracking and now we're going to have two natural gas plants being built?" said Cindy Spoon, a Denton resident who’s been active in speaking out against the gas drilling practice in town.

Leaders with Denton Municipal tried to ease some of those worries Saturday by touting the utility’s safety record and showing studies that issues like sound shouldn’t be significantly increased with the plants being built.

"We think it answers council's direction for more renewable energy that protects rates and reliability,” said Daskam.

Several members of the City Council and the mayor were in attendance and appeared to be paying close attention to the comments Saturday morning.

So far the council has had some discussions about the Renewable Denton plan, but has held off on any action to get more citizen input.

At last check it was likely to be placed on the Feb. 2 agenda at which point councilors could chose to vote, or just continue talks.

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