ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Department of Energy awarded a $235 million grant for the development in the Orlando area of what energy officials described as one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants in the world.
The grant was given by U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to a consortium consisting of Southern Power Co., the Orlando Utilities Commission and Kellog, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, the energy company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Activists for the League of Conservation Voters said the connection to Kellog, Brown and Root raised concerns about whether politics was involved in the awarding of the grant in the nation's largest swing state. A half dozen activists for the environmental group held up signs that said "How much for Halliburton?" outside the building where the grant was given.
"I don't think this passes the smell test," said Ken Cook, a spokesman for the League of Conservation Voters.
But Department of Energy officials said no politics were involved since the consortium was chosen not by political appointees but by 40 career professionals at the department who evaluated 13 proposals from around the nation. The development of the plant could bring 1,800 jobs to the Orlando area.
"This decision is not driven by political people at the Department of Energy," Abraham said. "The career officials made the decision ..."
The grant for the 285-megawatt facility was part of President Bush's Clean Coal Power Initiative, which is investing $2 billion over 10 years in power new technologies.
A first-round of grants worth $300 million was issued by the Department of Energy last year in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, among other states.
"Advancing the technology for clean coal will go a long way toward giving us control of our energy future," Abraham said.
The Florida plant will use a technology called "integrated gasification combined cycle." In that process, gas derived from coal passes through a gas turbine to generate electricity. The hot gas leaving the turbine is used to heat water to produce steam, which powers a steam turbine and generates even more electricity.
Gov. Jeb Bush said he liked the fact that the future $557 million plant would help wean the state from reliance on foreign sources of energy, such as oil.
"It's important to have a reliable source of energy if we're going to grow," Bush said.