Support for Tenaska debatable

November 13, 2010

Tenaska Trailblazer Energy Center

Community support for the proposed Tenaska Trailblazer Energy Center is debatable. While 47% of Sweetwater residents are in favor of the proposed plant being built, 36% oppose its construction, and 17% are unsure whether the plant should be built.
Although a little less than half (47%) of Sweetwater residents support the construction of the plant, fewer than one in three (28%) support selling local water to Tenaska.
While the majority of residents believe Tenaska’s Trailblazer Energy Center would benefit the economy (65%) and bring new jobs to Sweetwater (68%), less than half of residents (47%) support the construction of the plant. This means noneconomic issues are the deciding factor for approximately one in five residents.
Sweetwater residents seem uncertain about possible environmental impacts from the proposed plant. Although the largest number of residents (44%) believe it is possible to have a clean coal plant, a similar number (42%) believe the proposed plant would pollute the air in Sweetwater. Residents’ views on local water pollution and health harms are debatable given the margin of error.
Large numbers of Sweetwater residents are unsure about many of the issues asked about in the poll. One-quarter of residents are unsure about the plant’s possible effects on Sweetwater water, air, and residents’ health. Additionally, one-third are unsure whether it is possible to have a clean coal plant.
General support for
proposed Tenaska project
While 47% of Sweetwater residents support the construction of the Tenaska Trailblazer Energy Center, the majority (53%) are either opposed to the plant being built or are unsure.
Should the Tenaska Trailblazer Energy Center Be Built?
Yes 47%
No 36%
Unsure 17%
Nearly half of Sweetwater residents (49%) oppose selling local water to Tenaska. The number of residents who support selling water (28%) or are unsure (24%) are almost equal.
Should Sweetwater Sell Water to Tenaska?
Yes 28%
No 49%
Unsure 24%
The majority of Sweetwater residents have heard about the coal plant Tenaska proposes to construct.
Have you heard about Tenaska’s proposed Trailblazer Energy Center?
Yes 92%
No 8%
Economic impact
In general, belief in the Tenaska Trailblazer Energy Center’s positive impact on the economy is strong. Nearly seven in ten believe that the proposed plant would create new jobs in the Sweetwater area.
Will Tenaska Create Jobs?
Yes 68%
No 11%
Unsure 21%
In addition, the majority of residents (65%) believe the Tenaska Trailblazer Energy Center would benefit Sweetwater’s economy.
Will Tenaska Benefit the Local Economy?
Yes 65%
No 21%
Unsure 15%
A slight majority of residents (53%) believe the energy the proposed plant would produce is necessary to meet future energy needs, while approximately one in four (26%) are unsure about future energy needs.
Is the Tenaska Plant Necessary to Meet Future Energy Needs?
Yes 53%
No 21%
Unsure 26%
However, the effect of Tenaska’s proposed energy creation is unclear to residents when it comes to how the plant might impact their monthly electric bill. When asked whether their electricity costs would go down, stay the same, or go up, the largest response group (40%) says their electric costs would stay the same. However, less than one in three (27%) are unsure how rates might be affected.
What Effect Will The Proposed Plant Have on Your Electricity Costs?
Go Down 21%
Stay the Same 40%
Go Up 12%
Unsure 27%
Environmental and health impact
Residents express great uncertainty when answering questions related to the proposed plant’s impact on the environment and their health.
When asked if it is possible for a coal plant to be clean, 44% say it is possible to have a clean coal plant. However, one in three is unsure whether a coal plant can be clean.
Is it Possible for a Coal Plant to be a Clean Coal Plant?
Yes 44%
No 23%
Unsure 34%
Residents are split fairly evenly regarding whether the proposed plant would pollute their local water. A little more than one-third believe water pollution may or may not occur and almost 30% are unsure.
Will the Tenaska Plant Pollute Water in Your Area?
Yes 37%
No 35%
Unsure 29%
Sweetwater residents are slightly more confident that the Tenaska plant would pollute local air, with 42% responding that they believe the plant would pollute the air. A little less than a third of residents say the plant would not pollute local air.
Will the Tenaska Plant Pollute the Air in Your Area?
Yes 42%
No 31%
Unsure 26%
Residents’ beliefs about health harms from the proposed plant are unclear. Given the margin of error, it is not possible to determine whether residents believe the plant will or will not harm locals’ health.
Will the Tenaska Plant Harm People’s Health?
Yes 35%
No 41%
Unsure 24%

Poll methodology: This telephone poll was designed, conducted, and analyzed by 22 Abilene Christian University students and their professor as part of a classroom assignment in an upper division course in the Department of Communication. The purpose of this scientific poll was to assess Sweetwater residents’ attitudes toward and beliefs associated with Tenaska’s proposed Trailblazer Energy Center. The poll was conducted among a random sample of 525 Sweetwater residents between October 9 and 24. A systematic random sampling procedure was used to select residents’ phone numbers from the Sweetwater phone book. Only residents 18 years of age and older were included in the sample. The response rate was 47.3%, and the margin of error is plus or minus four percent.
Note: Due to rounding, adding response categories for any of the above questions may total slightly more or less than 100%.

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