Monday, May 19, 2014


By Juan Montoya
Ever since January of last year when the Brownsville Public Utility Board and privately-owned Tenaska, a supplier of electric power, announced an agreement to jointly pay for the construction of a gas-powered plant here, it has been like pulling teeth to pry loose the details of the deal.
After the mandatory official announcement by Da Mayor and PUB brass, the access to information about what specific commitments the residents of the city had made to the private company – and vice versa – were denied for the public.
The PUB and Tenaska objected to a request for information by this blog and others of the documents pertaining to the deal involving the  in a natural gas-fired, 800-megawatt power plant Tenaska would build of which PUB would own 25 percent.
At the time we made the request, PUB objected with the Texas Attorney General saying that the information was exempt from disclosure sue to the "competitive" nature of the energy business.
The local newspaper reported that PUB responded with identical answer to the request made by Alex Hinojosa Jr., president and CEO of HINO Electric Power Company, of Harlingen.
PUB spokesman Ryan Greenfeld told the Brownsville Herald that the overall project cost and BPUB’s share are confidential since the project is competing with other proposed power plant projects elsewhere in the Rio Grande Valley. Releasing cost projections “would give advantage to competitors or prospective competitors,” he said.
But the newspaper – to its credit – disclosed that a Fitch Ratings report from March indicated that the Tenaska project would add an extra $362 million to the roughly $200 million PUB was planning to spend on capital projects through fiscal year 2017. The extra capital expenditures would be funded completely with long-term debt, according to the report.
Fitch noted that, under the terms of the agreement PUB and Tenaska signed early last year, Tenaska will build the power plant and BPUB will buy a 25-percent “undivided ownership interest in the plant.”
Tenaska and PUB named the plant the “Tenaska Brownsville Generating Station” and plan to build it on 270 acres at F.M. 511 and Old Alice Road.
Water for the plant’s steam-driven turbines would be supplied by PUB’s Robindale wastewater treatment plant via a five-mile-long pipeline to be constructed by PUB. A local blogger has already posted pictures of workers placing the line from the Robindale Plant to the proposed site.
PUB is also responsible for building a natural gas pipeline from Edinburg to supply the plant with fuel. The power plant is scheduled to begin commercial operations in 2017.
And guess what? PUB ratepayers have been paying since last year when the city commission approved We have been paying
Last year the city commission, at the recommendation of the BPUB board, approved incremental seven percent rate increases that started in April 1 and Oct. 1, 2013, with further 7-percent increases scheduled for Oct. 1 of 2014 and 2016. An 8-percent increase was approved to go into effect Oct. 1, 2015.
We would imagine that the construction of  a gas-fired power plant is pretty much well known. But what the community needs to know is who is going to profit from this huge expenditures. Is Tenaska leveraging investment capital based on the increases rates? Will the additional 600 MWs be sold on the open grid to benefit a private supplier on the backs of the PUB ratepayers?
This deal did nnot involve anyone other than Tenaska and PUB. Should the utility had gone out for Requests For Proposals from other suppliers? Or was this a closed-doors deal between the utility and and a favored vendor?
Believe it or not PUB and Tenaska and the city commission, the people who are paying for this expensive project deserve the courtesy of an answer.


Anonymous said...

Hello? Whose deep pockets and palms were Greased this time. ??

Anonymous said...

Systematic in Brownsville. The local officials treat the citizens like mushrooms....they keep us in the dark and feed us shit. Local officials work for themselves and assume that what is good for them is good for the public. And, the PUB officials seem dedicated to giving the poorest city in the valley the highest utility rates.

Anonymous said...

Do we know the dark side of the PUB? Secret contracts, pay-offs, pre-arranged appointments, rigged bids, etc. The well known acronym : Primos, Uncles. Brothers, still holds the line.

chief cool arrow said...

puro chorizo san manuel

Anonymous said...

Is Tenaska a Russian spy snared by the CIA and given to the PUB? No, ass hole; it was Da Mayor disguised as a KGB undercover operative.