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Archive for February 5th, 2009

Originally posted by Brad Johnson at the Wonk Room. Copied here whole sale:

The coal industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get out the message of “clean coal,” through front groups like the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, campaign contributions, and an army of lobbyists. But the devastating December 22, 2008 coal ash slurry spill of the Kingston Fossil Plant in rural Tennessee broke through the cacophony of clean coal carolers. This ThinkProgress Wonk Room video is a stark reminder that in reality, coal isn’t clean.

Watch it:

This week alone, the news of progress away from dirty coal has reached a fever pitch:

Monday: A new report shows high levels of arsenic and other toxins in rivers downstream of the Kingston coal ash spill. “TVA says no drinking water standards were violated, but tests done by the nonpartisan, nonprofit group Environmental Integrity Project say otherwise.”

A Montana electric utility decided to “scrap its plans for a $900 million coal-fired power plant east of Great Falls and turn instead to renewable energy to meet the needs of its 65,000 Montana customers.”

Tuesday: In Pettus, West Virginia, five Coal River Mountain activists were arrested and charged with trespassing after locking themselves to a bulldozer and a backhoe at a Massey Energy mountaintop-removal mine site — that could instead be a wind farm.

250 people in the towns of Prenter and Seth, West Virginia “with orange and black water in their taps, tubs and toilets are suing eight coal companies they believe poisoned their wells by pumping mine wastes into former underground mines.”

Saying, “Coal makes no sense in this day and age,” Georgia Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D) introduced legislation to “limit then ban” coal from mountain-top removal and “place a moratorium on new coal-plant construction in the state.”

In her State of the State address, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) called for “a near-moratorium on new coal-fired power plants and a major reduction in reliance on coal for electricity generation over the next decade.”

Green Inc.’s Tom Zeller Jr. notes, “The coal industry — which suffers from an image problem to begin with — has had a particularly rough few days.”

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At last!  I can fill you in on Monday’s fantastic solar press conference at the capitol!

Public Citizen Director Tom "Smitty" Smith and Senator Rodney Ellis

Senator Rodney Ellis and Public Citizen Director Tom "Smitty" Smith

Public Citizen, Environment Texas and the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club hosted a statewide round of press conferences this week to roll out our solar report, Texas Solar Roadmap — which of course can be downloaded at www.cleanenergyfortexas.org. Our report highlights how a robust solar program would help put Texans back to work, reduce peak energy prices, curb climate change, improve air quality, and position the state as a world leader for solar production. The full report is a pretty good read, but if you’re short on time I suggest the condensed version, Wildcatting the Sun.

Our press conference in Austin was particularly exciting because we were in such great company. Senators Troy Fraser, Leticia Van de Putte, Kirk Watson, Rodney Ellis, and Representatives Mark Strama and Rafael Anchia all appeared and championed the solar bills they have introduced thus far.

anchia

shapiro

Rafael Anchia’s HB 278 and Florence Shapiro’s SB 427 would require the state’s electric utilities to support the development of 2000 megawatts of solar and other on-site renewable technologies by offering direct incentives to consumers and businesses.

This is right in line with Public Citizen’s distributed solar goal, outlined in both Wildcatting the Sun and Texas Solar Roadmap . According to our report , such a standard could lead to installations on as many as 500,000 roofs in Texas by 2020 at a cost of about 98 cents per month per Texan (Polls have shown that 81% of Texas voters are willing to pay up to a dollar a month to encourage solar power. What about you?). This investment would create an estimated 22,000 jobs and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide emissions by 29 million tons, the equivalent of taking 4.3 million cars off the road for a year.

Anchia stressed that this should be Texas’ solar session because it would answer two of our major challenges: air quality, and global warming.

solar_power_lege_09_presser_0041Senator Fraser was the first legislator to speak, proclaiming that this would be Texas’ solar session. Chairman of the Business and Commerce Committee, Fraser is well positioned to be an effective solar champion. As such, Fraser was particularly proud to forecast a sunny session for solar power. He joked that there are so many solar bills being filed this session, they are going to have to lay them all out at once and have a “solar day” where they can pick out the best bills and key components of each (this is the second time I’ve heard him say this though, so he may be serious. If so, you better bet I’ll be there with bells on!)

Fraser also said that he found the idea enumerated in Kirk Watson’s bills — that Texas was very successful in promoting wind power but missed out on manufacturing opportunities — particularly in need of our attention.

Fraser’s big solar bill is SB 545, which

would create a five-year program for distributed solar generation incentives offered through the state’s transmission and distribution utilities. The incentive program would be funded by a nominal monthly fee on residential, commercial and industrial customers.

Check out his press release from last week, when that bill was filed, for more information. Or if you’re feeling really geeky, read the bill. Watson has also filed SB 546, relating to the state goal for energy efficiency. This bill sets stepped goals for how much of the state’s growth in energy efficiency will be met by efficiency, culminating in a goal of getting 50% load growth through efficiency by 2015.

solar_power_lege_09_presser_0061Senator Van de Putte was then called up to champion CPS Energy’s new distributed energy commitment and her own solar in schools bill, SB 598. This would set up a pilot loan program to retrofit public schools with PV panels and other efficiency measures. Solar on schools is a pretty smart idea, because during summer months when the lights are off and their electricity use dips way down, they could make a lot of money pumping of energy back into the grid.

Senator Watson, a member of the Business and C0mmerce Committee and my Very Own senator, has three solar bills introduced so far. (more…)

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