Sweetwater Exposed in Negotiations to Sell Water to Tenaska

Things have been heating up in West Texas as Tenaska gets more and more desperate to find water to cool it’s proposed coal plant in Nolan County. Tenaska, in it’s increasingly desperate attempts to obtain water has been turning to back room deals and negotiations to try and cobble together the water needed for the plant.

These underhanded deals began earlier this year with the city of Stamford signing a water contract with Tenaska. The City of Stamford negotiated for over one year before it’s citizens even heard of the existence of this contract. Then when the existence of a contract did come to light, the City of Stamford rushed through a vote on the water contract within a period of a few weeks in an attempt to squash constituent feedback.

Sweetwater, a town that had abandoned negotiations with Tenaska in 2010, has now been back in talks with Tenaska to sell their water. This was beknownst to Sweetwater’s citizens until last month when the City finally released documents to the Sierra Club detailing these negotiations. These documents were only wrenched from the city’s hands after the Sierra Club submitted an open record’s request to the city.

The City of Sweetwater has been in negotiations with Tenaska for the past 7 months, without any public notice. Understandably, residents are outraged at the notion that Sweetwater officials have been bargaining away their water rights, without even consulting them. Selling such a precious public resource is not something that should be entered into lightly without public input, and that is exactly what the City of Sweetwater is doing.

The water in consideration is effluent, or “wastewater,” produced by the city. The term wastewater is misleading though, with many cities throughout Texas turning to wastewater as a way to meet water shortages during the drought. Effluent water can be used for irrigation in agriculture and sports fields. Some cities even utilize advanced filtration to circulate it with their drinking water. These are methods of usage that Sweetwater could potentially need to turn to in the future, should the drought continue or worsen. Economically, this potential deal is also bad news for Sweetwater residents, with Tenaska getting this water for pennies on the dollar compared to what local citizens pay.

Residents have a right to know why the City is considering selling water to a coal plant for dirt cheap, in a back room deal, during one of the worst droughts in history. Numerous brave residents did speak out at last week’s Sweetwater City Commission meeting, only to be ridiculed by City officials. The City of Sweetwater has accused groups such as the Sierra Club and Texans Against Tenaska of being conspirators about this water contract, but it is only because of the diligence of local citizens that these negotiations have come to light. This sort of attitude towards constituents is inappropriate and unacceptable. It is time that the City of Sweetwater come clean about its dealings with Tenaska and open up these contract negotiations for public input.

10 responses to “Sweetwater Exposed in Negotiations to Sell Water to Tenaska

  1. Surprise, surprise, surprise…..more underhanded deals by Tenaska!

  2. Unfortunately I can’t say that this surprised most of us!

  3. I have heard and read that ignorance is bliss. But in the case of Sweetwater city council and Nolan County commissioners, ignorance has really become dumb ignorance. Of which there are not words.

  4. Jimmy Headstream

    Not quite the complete story – Some important parts missing or covered.

    Document titled “Commercial Terms For Water Supply Agreement By And Between Tenaska Trailblazer Partners, LLC And City Of Sweetwater, Texas” dated “March 8, 2011 states:

    Under caption “TERMS”:

    (1)The City will make available to Tenaska up to 560 ac-ft/yr (182,476,560 gallons per year) of municipal treated effluent on a firm basis. (emphasis mine)

    Item (1) does seem to indicate that it is indeed a Municipal Treated Effluent contract although Item (2) clearly amends the term stated in Item (1) as follows:

    (2)The City will “backstop” the supply of Excess Treated Effluent with other available supplies. In other words, the City will make up any shortfall of the 560 ac-ft/yr with other available supplies to ensure that the City is able to deliver 560 ac-ft/yr of water on a firm basis.
    Item (2) has changed the contract terms from a “Treated Effluent” to a firm supply 560 ac-ft/yr water from where ever the City has to supply it from contract. Tenaska clearly doesn’t care if the City uses effluent water, raw lake water, well field water, water required to meet the basic human water requirements for the citizens of Sweetwater, Trent, Oak Creek, Bronte, Hwy 70 into Fisher County or water purchased in 12 Oz. Bottles from the local Walmart as long as it equals 182 Million 476 Thousand 560 gallons per year for the next 50 years plus 30 more.

    Item (8) on the second page is the coup de grace when it states:

    (8)Tenaska shall be excused from conditions in the City’s Drought Contingency Plan which may curtail the delivery to Tenaska of Excess Treated Effluent.
    When the current drought or any future drought occurring anytime within the next 80 years depletes the water supplies to the point where the City has to substantially restrict the water you and I need to exist and keep the tap from running completely dry, Your good neighbor Tenaska will still be getting their 560 ac-ft/yr, guaranteed, and all still at 2011 bargain basement price with only minor adjustments tied directly to the Consumer Price Index. That same Consumer Price Index that gave us no raise in Social Security payments this past year.

    What a bargain!!!!

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  8. How about just not building the deadliest and dirtiest form of electricity production that we have? Oh yeah, you already mentioned why, greed.

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