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Archive for June, 2009

Board Promises Transparency, Whistleblower Protections, Open Meetings

AUSTIN, Texas – The first meeting of the new board of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) on Monday marked an unprecedented change in leadership and vision for the nation’s largest electric cooperative. Not only is the majority of the board progressive reformers, but it is led by an entirely new executive body that has promised to prioritize transparency, accountability, whistleblower protection, renewable energy and energy efficiency new priorities.

“The PEC has an opportunity to be a national leader among co-ops. Board members see that the future of electric power in America lies with energy efficiency and renewable energy,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office. “Public Citizen Texas applauds the board’s openness and commitment to member rights and looks forward to working with directors in the future as they further investigate how to make their visions reality.”

Considering that just last year the co-op was deep in the midst of a scandal involving accusations of misappropriated funds, theft, money laundering, closed meetings and tainted elections, Monday’s meeting marked an incredible turnaround.

PEC held a special meeting Monday to seat newly elected board directors Christi Clement, Patrick Cox and Larry Landacker. During this meeting, the full board held the elections for the positions of president, vice president and secretary for the coming year.

Landacker was nominated for president and elected with six votes in favor and one abstention;  Clements secured the vice presidency with four votes in favor and three abstentions, and Kathy Scanlon was unanimously elected to the position of board secretary.

During his acceptance speech, Landacker announced that the board would begin working immediately on several projects to reform the co-op and move toward becoming a more environmentally friendly, sustainable business. Landacker plans to adopt a co-op members’ Bill of Rights, guarantee open access to meetings, implement a new whistleblower protection policy and create a new and open governance system for the co-op. These laudable measures will ensure that members have the opportunity to participate fully in their co-op and in decisions, and that workers are encouraged to act in the best interests of member-owners.

Landacker also pledged to move forward aggressively with the co-op’s goal, set last November, to purchase or generate 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. As a part of this effort, the co-op plans to create new programs to encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy projects among individual members.

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Statement of Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

CPS Energy’s announcement today that it will cost $13 billion to build two new nuclear reactors at the South Texas Project (STP) is a naïve guess when compared to independent assessments that offer more realistic estimates for financing and construction. San Antonio already has spent nearly $300 million just for an accounting of this project’s potential cost, but it appears that even that amount could not buy the city an accurate study.

Former Office of Public Utility Counsel Director Clarence Johnson and nuclear engineer and president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Arjun Makhijani have estimated that costs will range from $17.5 billion to $22 billion.

Even Wall Street underwriters are pinning new reactors at a cost closer to what Johnson and Makhijani have estimated. Wall Street realizes the true potential cost and risk of nuclear power – which is why they refuse to invest in STP unless it is able to secure federally guaranteed loans. That way, if the project goes under or the costs balloon out of control, the only investors who will lose a significant amount of money are the American taxpayers.

Estimates like the one CPS made today are non-binding. If the reactors cost more than CPS has estimated, San Antonio taxpayers will pay the difference. If NRG Energy is unable to provide a fixed contract for this deal, CPS and San Antonio should ask why.

The City Council can stop all this madness and save San Antonio from a bad deal that will pass costs onto ratepayers for decades to come. Council members have questioned the project in the past and have expressed skepticism. The unfortunate truth is that there will be no way to know how much the expansion will cost until the plant is online.  No one knows how much new reactors will ultimately cost to build, finance and operate.

City Council members have shown support for investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy. They have shown incredible vision supporting the Mission Verde plan to develop 250 megawatts of solar and new wind contracts. Just this May, the City Council voted to allow CPS to fund energy efficiency efforts, known as the Save for Tomorrow Energy Program. These are the sorts of measures that San Antonio should be supporting – measures that can be deployed quicker and at a fraction of the cost of nuclear expansion.

Now is the time for the City Council to bring common sense and practicality back to the table. San Antonio can’t afford another nuclear boondoggle; the City Council has the opportunity to say “no” to these new nuclear investments. Only it can protect San Antonians from bearing the overwhelming economic burden of building costly, dangerous and unnecessary nuclear reactors.

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Last night like many Americans I watch President Obama’s ABC News Health Care Forum, filmed from the White House. Among the things that struck me most was how vague and sound-bite oriented the President’s answers were to the panels questions and how the pressures of commercial television force speakers into confining their messages to short concise sound-bites. It seemed like the program was interrupted for commercial breaks at an interval that would have made it impossible for the president to have a more nuanced discussion of his plan. He rarely went into actual numbers and I do not recall him specifying anything about the specific language of his proposed legislation.

The event was clearly a media event and an exercise in public relations for the president. Also, the event was meant to answer some very broad questions the about health care that the general public has. I see this type of thing as being very similar to what happens at National Democratic or Republican conventions. During these events the party introduces the candidate they selected and has a big celebratory party to tell everyone how great he (as of yet we have not had a female nominee from one of the major parties) is. In my opinion that makes these rather dull events. Who enjoys a story with no conflict in it? In the past, National Party Conventions were places of high energy, conflict and debate and candidates would go into specific details about their plans and disagreements. This can no longer be done since the major parties now use their National Conventions to convey messages of unity and rally voters behind the chosen candidates.

I noticed a similar trend when watching debates between candidates in both parties during the 2008 election cycle. They confined their discussion to nothing but talk that was easy to follow for the average uninterested viewer. In the debates it was difficult to find any features that differentiated Hillary Clinton’s health care plan from Barack Obama’s, and the candidates were criticized when the delved too deeply into the finer points of their plans.

All of this leads me to question the state of public discourse in our country. Are our attention spans so short that we cannot handle anything more than short bumper-sticker soundbites and endless sloganeering? Does public opinion really rest more on a figure’s media image and personality than it does on the actual content of their ideas? Is our media actively keeping us politically shallow as it diminishes the role of political discourse to that of filler between commercial messages?

America is lucky enough to have had an electoral government and peaceful transfers of power between leaders continuously for more than two centuries. We live very well compared to people in other parts of the world and our government is very stable, so maybe changes in our government do not raise as much passion as some of the more disruptive political changes that take place around the world, but our politics are important — we are in the middle of two on-going wars and a period of mass economic uncertainty.

Our politics not only play a big role in issues like health care, environmental quality, how we educate our children, and more. This is not to mention that what happens in U.S has a huge influence worldwide, but we are (for now) the global hegemon, and our economy is intricately tied to that of every other nation on Earth. In American politics the future of the world is often literally at stake. So, with that I urge all of our readers to please take a little more interests in what are government is doing. Maybe then the media will follow suite.

The Disappointed Environmentalist

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Maybe I am underestimating the reach of this blog, but I am guessing that if your are reading this you probably a pretty well- educated American (if not, you certainly are an English speaker, and are probably from a western country — but most likely yer from Texas), who has the ability to access a computer. You’re a likely to be concerned about the environment and consumer protections, or are at least interested in what Public Citizen Texas is doing in this area.

That is why today’s blog post is interactive. Instead of just sharing my opinions with you and updating you on Public Citizen activities, I want to talk about things we can do as consumers to address some of our biggest environmental problems. As the educated westerner that I am assuming you are, your consumption is the engine driving the modern economy. Much of the greenhouse gases and other pollutants that are emitted these days have been done so to make our lifestyle possible. But  many people in the developing world are also aspiring to live our lifestyle, putting us in a great position to lead by example.

I know that some will say that I am trying to guilt trip our readers into feeling bad about their success or their consumption. That is not the case at all. If anything, I am simply trying inform you of the influence you have in the global economy as consumers and the ability you have to shape the modern economy into a more sustainable version of its current self. Let’s face it: our country has not exactly taken a proactive stance on global warming, so it is up to us to be proactive while our government gets its act together. Our influence as consumers will also influence countries like China and India, who produce a lot of pollution making and shipping consumer goods for American consumers.

There are a lot of things consumers can do to reduce their impact on the environment. For example, my concern about pollution caused by confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) has led my giving up industrially produced meat. Since CAFO-style operations are also a cause of much deforestation and emissions from shipping from refrigeration, this measure alone can make a huge impact. I’ve also, like many other Americans, chosen to buy a smaller more efficient car — or use no car at all when I get the opportunity. I personally advocate and support public transportation measures where I live and have chosen to use them instead of using my car multiple times.  I avoid using Styrofoam and disposable products, often at great inconveniences to my self. Since discovering the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement I will now make a point to influence the city governments of any city I live in to join if they have not already.

Not all of these measures are doable for all of us, and some people will be able to do things others will not. The point is that we the consumers have the power to shift the global economy into a more sustainable direction and influence our local governments to take more environmental initiatives. Fortunately there are numerous books and websites dedicated to differentiating between products and practices that are environmentally friendly and those which are not.

Consumer activism works: the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group subsidiary Eco-pledge (an environmentally motivated consumer boycott group), was successfully able to influence Apple into recycling ipods, and Dell into better management of its E-waste. They also contributed to Conoco-Phillips and BPs withdrawl from Artic Power, an industry group set on opening the Artic Wildlife Refuge for drilling.

Economists tell us that for markets to function properly buyers need to be fully informed to make rational decisions. What could be more rational than making purchase decisions that will preserve our environment? Hopefully we will see more people willing to fight for environmental justice in their communities and with their purchasing decisions.

The Disappointed Environmentalist

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HEAT_WAVE_072605Just four days into summer, and we’re already are setting records for energy consumption in Texas.  Yesterday Reuters reported that the Texas grid had set a new record for peak energy consumption in the month of June.  With temperatures already in the 100s in our largest urban ares, thermostats are cranking across the state, and energy bills are going up.

Texas consumers used 60, 452 MW of energy in the hour ending at 5 o’clock yesterday, blowing last year’s June record of 59,642 MW out of the water.

But today ERCOT is predicting that Texas will set a new record for electricity consumption.  Period.  By about five o’clock this afternoon, the time of day when the the sun is shining brightest and A/Cs run hardest, Texas will be consuming more energy at one time than we ever have in our history.

According to the Ft. Worth Star Telegram,

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the power grid that serves about 22 million Texans, forecasts that power demand will peak today at 62,450 megawatts and at 63,589 megawatts Thursday. The record is 62,339 megawatts, set Aug. 17, 2006, ERCOT spokeswoman Dottie Roark said.

If we’re reaching record energy use this early in June, I don’t even want to think about how bad its going to get in July and the dreaded August.  Global warming, indeed.  Don’t say we didn’t tell you so.

But no need to worry about outages, ERCOT says.  The grid has more than 72,700 megawatts of available generation capacity, plenty to serve on even the hottest days.

So wait a minute.  If we have 10,000 MW of extra power lying around, why is Texas rushing to build 12 new coal plants to provide tons of baseload power?  Judging by this recent run of records, looks like what we really need is *peak power.

Not sure of the difference?  An aside for the uninitiated.  There are two main classifications of power that run our modern lives: baseload, and peak.  Baseload is steady amount of power we need under normal circumstances (because as a society we’re always doing something that requires energy), and peak is the extra energy we need when we are all doing something at the same time.  Think about baseload and peak power as you would about keeping your body hydrated.  We always need to be drinking a certain amount of water to stay healthy and functioning (baseload aqua), but when we are working out or being active outside, need even more on top of that (peak gatorade).

Baseload power is largely provided by the old dirty standbys — coal and nuclear (unless you’re in Houston, in which case it is gas in abundance, baby — one of the reasons power in H-town is so expensive).  Baseload is the huge, slow, steady sort of power — the kind we have plenty of.

In Texas, peak power is generally produced by gas turbines.  When it starts to reach that key hot afternoon time, your energy provider flips the switch to turn on a quick revving gas turbine to turbo charge the grid with enough power to keep all those fans spinning and air conditioners blowing.

Another source of peak power, though less common currently, is of course solar power.  Solar produces peak power because just as the day gets hottest, and we need power to keep us cool the most — the sun is shining brightest!  Match made in heaven, really — solar and the need for peak energy.

So why  is Texas trying to build 8500 MW + 9149#of coal MW of additional baseload power from coal and nuclear plants when what we really need is peak power, and solar is such a natural fit to produce peak energy?

Good question.

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This is an issue that has been bothering me for some time, but does not get as much play in political discourse I think it should. In my opinion the high cost of education and my generation’s huge accumulation of loan debt are likely to be one of the biggest problems that ordinary people in this country face.

The increased integration of the global economy is dictating that we have a highly educated workforce in order to remain competitive. To get this, high-quality post-secondary education needs to be available to all who want it, and people who have received secondary education need to have the freedom to meet their potential.

Unfortunately, this is not the way the situation looks currently. The cost of post-secondary education has grown to unprecedented heights, and more than half of college graduates are indebted to student loan providers by the time they graduate. It has become commonplace for college graduates to be saddled with anywhere from $50 to over $100 thousand in debt.

I admit that I may be a little biased, being that this issue hits very close to home for me. I am a recent graduate myself and have seen many people in my age group saddled with unbelievable amounts of debt. As is reflected by my work at Public Citizen, I am an aspiring government reformer whose primary ambitions are in the nonprofit sector. I love the fact that I am able to work for an organization that makes efficient use of its funding and fights for the things I value, making a genuinely positive impact. This type of thing is not an option to many of the people I graduated with, because they are forced to work jobs that pay enough to pay off their accumulated debt.

While many of colleagues may not have chosen this career path anyway, it is unfortunate that it is not even a viable option for them. One cannot help but note the irony of many people my age being unable to fight the status quo because they are so heavily indebted to companies that want to preserve it.

The costs of education have continued to rise in this country, and government assistance has fallen heavily. Over the last few decades the amount of tuition costs paid for by Pell grants for students in need of financial assistance has dramatically declined from covering over 60% to below 30% of students. In 1997, amendments added to the Higher Education Act deregulated the student loan business and made it possible for lenders to charge huge interest rates and massive default penalties fees. Companies are now able to forbid refinancing and use of bankruptcy protections for debtors. Worse, they are now able to garnish wages and social security, as well as prevent debtors from obtaining professional certifications and use their influence to terminate debtors employment. Sally Mae and other companies are able to see to it that their debtors are unable to pay off their loans and accumulate enormous amounts of interest — and of course they have spent millions of dollars lobbying and donating to the campaigns of their allies in congress like House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senator Mike Enzi.

Much like the sub prime loans that led to the mortgage crisis last year, these loans are sold to incoming students as being much more affordable then they are in reality. They are not warned of the astronomical amounts of interests that these loans often accumulate, or how quickly interest rates can jump. Defaulted students loans have become a huge industry and this legalized loan-sharking has made the executives and share holders at Sally Mae and other lending companies very well off. Unfortunately this boon to their fortunes has done considerable harm to our current generation of college graduates and our country’s ability to compete in the world economy.

The Disappointed Environmentalist

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Join Public Citizen and dozens of Austin environmental groups in welcoming the newly inaugurated Austin City Council. In this time of economic and environmental crisis, we have an opportunity to reshape our future, now. Our community is coming together to make Austin a model of a sustainable city, and we want our elected officials to be leaders in this effort.

Welcome Austin’s New City Council in an Eco-Change Exchange this Thursday, June 25th from 5:30 – 9:00 PM at City Hall.

If You Care About:

• Healthy Food

• Clean Water

• Clean Energy and Reducing Carbon Emissions

• Landfill Expansions and Reducing Waste

• Alternatives to More Highways and Sprawl

• Participatory Democracy

• Climate Change

• Environmental Justice

Come on Thursday evening to learn, engage, and build momentum for making Austin the national environmental leader we ought to be!

Program for the Evening:

5:30 – 6:30 Sustainable Future Fair and Reception with new City Council Members. Enjoy some delicious local, organic food, learn about great work being done in Austin, and help create a vision for the sustainable future you want to see in Austin.

6:30 – 7:00 Opening Presentations: Building a Sustainable Future in Austin

7:00 – 8:00 Eco-Priorities Sessions: Breakout on Key Issue Areas

8:00 – 9:00 Charting Our Future including reflections from City Council Members.

Participating Groups so far include: Austin Eco-Network, Ecology Action, Central Texas Zero Waste Alliance, Public Citizen, Coal Block, Alliance of Community Trainers, Save Our Springs Alliance, Save Barton Creek Association, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Environment Texas, PODER, Austin Sierra Club, Solar Austin, PowerSmack.org, and Clean Water Action.

For more information, contact [email protected] or visit www.AustinEcoNetwork.org

If you plan to attend, please let us know by emailing [email protected]

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round upIt’s Monday, the day after the first day of summer, and it’s time for another Texas Progressive Alliance blog roundup.

President Obama, Bill White, and John Sharp are all in the same sinking DOMA boat. The Texas Cloverleaf comes off of hiatus to tell you why.

CouldBeTrue from South Texas Chisme cheers the impeachment of Judge Kent. 4 articles passed without a single nay. Lets hope the Senate is through with him by August.

BossKitty at TruthHugger finally signed up for Twitter to get updates on the Iran protests. What a day of drama and emotion it brought, Icons and Martyrs – All Day On Twitter Watching Iran. I was really meaning to highlight the regressive influences causing upheaval in personal lives, especially in Texas. Immigration Policies and Gay Rights – Contradictions

Unlike Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign, Neil at Texas Liberal makes a promise he’ll keep – He’ll never cheat on his wife! Also, Neil sings the Damned’s Wait For The Blackout at the Houston Ship Channel.

Off the Kuff takes a look, then a second look, at the bills Governor Perry vetoed.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson knows in order to solve big problems it takes leadership, Who is willing to lead, who has enough LBJ in them?.

Castle Hills Democrats heard candidates Tom Schieffer, John Sharp, Bill White, and Neil Durrance speak at the Dual County Fish Fry in north Texas. The blogger reviews their messages–and reports on feedback from the Dems in the audience. (more…)

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You are invited to learn about and provide input to the Austin Pecan Street Project tomorrow, June 23 from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Capital Area Workforce Board, 6505 Airport Blvd., Suite 101-E (please enter from the Highland Mall side of the building).

The Pecan Street Project is an initiative charged with exploring the challenges Austin faces in building a modern energy system, including a smart grid.  On September 25, 2008, the Austin City Council adopted a resolution directing the city to work with Environmental Defense Fund and other community stakeholders, to conduct an analysis of system improvements, technology advances, and business models that would enable Austin Energy to more fully develop its capacity for the distributed generation of clean energy.

Attendees will be provided information about the project, followed by an invitation to participate in breakout sessions encouraging discussion and soliciting feedback about the project’s technology, system design, financial and economic development aspects.

The project is a partnership among the City of Austin, Austin Energy, University of Texas, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and Environmental Defense Fund. The project has already garnered 11 corporate partnerships, including Dell Inc., IBM Corporation, Intel, Cisco Systems and others.

For a primer on just what a “smart grid” is, check out the following video.  Hope to see you at the meeting tomorrow!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrcqA_cqRD8]

For more information on the Pecan Street Project, check out their YouTube channel and watch a couple of their videos.

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An abandoned WPPS cooling Tower

An abandoned WPPSS cooling Tower

Whoops is a word with a negative connotation. It is also a word commonly associated, for better or worse, with Northwest Energy. It is an association they been trying to shake since the 1980s. They even went as far as to pay $260,000 in a 1998 lawsuit to avoid being associated with the stigma of Whoops.

It all began in late 1950’s, when the coalition of utilities now known as Northwest Energy originally came together under the name Washington Public Power Supply (WPPSS, pronounced whoops). During the seventies they developed an ambitious plan to build 5 nuclear power plants, funded by municipal bonds. For a decade the project was plagued with delays, surprise expenses and plan revisions. WPPSS had to contend with inflation, high interest rates, constantly changing safety requirements, shifting public opinion and a management team that had no experience in building nuclear power plants.

By the early eighties the estimated cost of completing the project had jumped from $4.1 billion to $23.8 billion. The WPPSS managers decided that completing the project was too expensive to be feasible and chose to default on the $2.25 billion in borrowed money they had already spent. This became the  largest municipal bonds default in U.S history, and it created a decades worth of law suits from angry investors and did considerable damage to the regional economy. Responsibility for paying this money eventually fell on the member utilities, or more specifically, their customers. When in 1988 WPPSS reach a $753 million dollar settlement with many of its investors, most of them received just 10 to 40 cents per each dollar they invested.

The disaster dubbed “Whoops” has haunted WPPSS for years. By 1998, the entity decided to change its name to Northwest Energy and paid another company with the same name $260,000 for the rights to that name. This was done primarily because the WPPSS name and the reputation that went with it was hurting business. For years the remains of the abandoned power plants have stood, as well as the debt owed by the rate payers of the utilities to remind us of the Whoops debacle.

This is a really unfortunate story, but there are many important lessons to be learned from it. First of all, it shows that nuclear power plants are and have always been very expensive to build, and even more expensive to build if the appropriate safety precautions are made. This is especially true if the bill is paid by investors and the government is not pitching in. Nuclear power is literally the most expensive known way of boiling water and we should not trust claims that it is cheap. Secondly, it teaches us that we should not lock  ourselves into using energy plans that are unable to adapt to changes in the economy, safety standards and consumer preferences.  The story of the “Whoops” debacle should serve as a warning, as well, to entities planning on building new nuclear plants here in Texas.

Northwest Energy has expanded its game into many other energy sources over the past 3 decades. These include wind, solar and biomass. Unfortunately they have recently expressed interest in not only expanding their coal burning facilities, but are also talking about building a new nuclear plant, possibly at the location of one of the sites abandoned during the eighties.

I would urge anyone who is not satisfied with the cost effectiveness or the safety of nuclear power to voice their concern and openly question the reasoning used to justify the building of a new WPPSS plant.

The Disappointed Environmentalist

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Oral Hearing Set for June 23rd-June 24th in Bay City, TX

Citizen opposition to more nuclear reactors in Texas continues. On June 23rd-24th an oral hearing will be held before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board on the Citizens’ Petition to Intervene in South Texas Project (STP) Nuclear Power Plant Units 3 and 4.

SEED Coalition, Public Citizen and South Texas Association for Responsible Energy are petitioners seeking to intervene in the proposed expansion of South Texas Project.

“Building two more nuclear reactors at STP is not in the best interest of the local community,” said Susan Dancer, a local wildlife rehabilitator. “Pursuing the most expensive and most water intensive energy source in a time of extraordinary drought and economic recession makes no sense. The local community will get stuck with more radioactive waste and bear heavy infrastructure costs if the proposed reactors get built. The existing reactors have not solved local economic problems.” Dancer chairs the Bay City based organization South Texas Association for Responsible Energy (STARE).

Attorney Robert V. Eye will represent the petitioners before the designated Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel and argue the admissibility of the 28 contentions citizens filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on April 21st. These contentions point out the inadequacies and the incompleteness of South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company’s (STPNOC) combined operating license application (COLA) to construct and operate South Texas Project Units 3 and 4. NRG Energy and San Antonio’s municipal utility CPS Energy are both applicants for the proposed reactors, which fall within STPNOC.

“NRG has failed to comply with new federal regulations regarding aircraft impacts,” stated Mr. Eye. “These new regulations are very specific and require the applicant to plan for catastrophic fires and/or explosions that would cause the loss of major critical functional components in the plant. After 9-11, an aircraft attack on a nuclear power plant is a real and credible threat. Moreover, fire hazards represent about half of the risk of a nuclear reactor meltdown. NRG’s noncompliance with these regulations puts citizens around South Texas Project in a dangerous position, which is completely unacceptable.” (more…)

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round upIt’s Tuesday, and that means it’s time once again to present the best of the Texas Progressive Alliance blog posts for the week.

TXsharon can’t choose one post this week! It’s a toss up between the aerial video view of Barnett Shale Industrial Wasteland Texas or the Barnett Shale drilling induced earthquakes or Erin Brockovich does Midland or the governmental warnings about defective pipeline materials on Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

Xanthippas at Three Wise Men blogs about how utterly ridiculous it is for us to pay a tiny South Pacific nation to take Guantanamo Bay detainees because we are a nation of bed-wetting, pearl-clutching morons.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson analyzes what might possibly happen in the upcoming special session, Perry calls a special – what gets done is up to him.

Off the Kuff looks at a Lone Star Project report on State Rep. Dwayne Bohac and his questionable relationship with an employee of the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office.

BossKitty at TruthHugger sees a growing pandemic of hate that erupts in violence. See the diagnosis: Scapegoat Lessons: Holocaust Museum ‘Act Of Cowardice’

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is glad that Judge Kent is going to jail. Too bad his sentence wasn’t longer. CBT can hardly wait to see his impeachment hearing in the senate.

This week, McBlogger finds out that the 290E tollway will be built using stimulus dollars. Which means Austinites will pay three different taxes to support this road.

John at Bay Area Houston> wonders about the lack of diversity at the Nancy Pelosi event in Houston.

George at The Texas Blue thinks that forced arbitration with credit card and cell phone companies is fundamentally unjust, but forced arbitration in a rape case is just disgusting.

Teddy at Left of College Station, reports on whether or not America is actually becoming more “pro-life” and looks deeper into the polls to find that opinions on reproductive rights are much more complicated, and Left of College Station also covers this week in the headlines.

Neil at Texas Liberal writes about Juneteenth. Juneteeth is June 19th and it has a Galveston origin.

Midland’s chromium 6 contamination got more linkage from PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Over at TexasKaos, liberaltexan asks, what exactly does the latest abortion survey mean? He answers not much new, since it does a poor job of asking the question and sorting out the nuances of public opinion. See the rest here: Are More Americans Pro-Life?

Justin at AAA-Fund Blog took some time to remember Tim Russert.

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[vimeo 5133131]

Two of the 12 newly proposed coal plants in Texas recently had preliminary hearings for their waste water permits: “Oak Grove” in Robertson County and “Coleto Creek” west of Victoria. In both cases the local groups opposed to the plants got “standing” (meaning they can participate in the actual contested case hearings which will be held near the end of the year). Robertson County Our Land, Our Lives is the local group opposing the Oak Grove plant, and Citizens for a Clean Environment is the group opposed to the Coleto Creek power plant.

Both of these groups received standing due to the fact that they had members who lived extremely close to the plant site, and bordered the water outfall from the plant. In the Oak Grove case, a local ranch (The Rolke Ranch) was denied standing even though the outfall creek ran through about 4 miles of their property. They were denied because they lived more than just a few miles away from the plant – it was estimated they were a little less than 10 miles away.

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Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies National Commission to Engage African Americans on Climate Change and Commission Co-Chair State Senator Rodney Ellis
present

A TOWN HALL MEETING ON

CLIMATE CHANGE and

GREEN JOBS

Moderated by: Gene Norman
Chief Meteorologist, KHOU Channel 11

WHO

  • Congressman Al Green
  • Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
  • State Sen. Mario Gallegos
  • Rep. Garnet Coleman
  • Rep. Sylvester Turner
  • Rep. Ana Hernandez
  • Rep. Alma Allen
  • Rep. Carol Alvarado
  • City Councilmember Ronald Green
  • City Councilmember Jolanda Jones
  • NAACP – Houston Branch
  • American Association of Blacks in Energy- Houston Chapter
  • Houston Citizen’s Chamber of Commerce
  • Houston Area Urban League
  • Public Citizen
  • Environment Texas
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Sierra Club
  • Houston ACORN

WHERE
Communications Workers of America, Local 6222
1730 Jefferson Street, Houston, TX 77003

WHEN
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Registration will open at 5:30 p.m. and refreshments will be provided.
 

For more information, contact:
Dallas Jones or Brandon Dudley
Office of Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis
713-236-0306
[email protected]

or

Royce Brooks
Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
202-789-3528
[email protected]

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For any of you global warming denier trolls lurking out there, here you finally have it: ANOTHER final study that undeniably shows a link between manmade greenhouse gas emissions and the warming that has occurred.

Yes, yes, and the sky is blue as well.  AND the Earth revolves around the sun.  I know most of us don’t need more scientific evidence that putting pollution in the atmosphere fundamentally disrupts the climate, but what is most interesting about this study is it calculates a precise amount of warming per ton of CO2 or equivalent:

Until now, it has been difficult to estimate how much climate will warm in response to a given carbon dioxide emissions scenario because of the complex interactions between human emissions, carbon sinks, atmospheric concentrations and temperature change. Matthews and colleagues show that despite these uncertainties, each emission of carbon dioxide results in the same global temperature increase, regardless of when or over what period of time the emission occurs.

These findings mean that we can now say: if you emit that tonne of carbon dioxide, it will lead to 0.0000000000015 degrees of global temperature change.

If we want to restrict global warming to no more than 2 degrees, we must restrict total carbon emissions — from now until forever — to little more than half a trillion tonnes of carbon, or about as much again as we have emitted since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

The full article will eb published in the June 11 edition of Nature.

And if that wasn’t enough, this from the HuffPo about coal ash:

Aerial photo of the Kingston fly ash spill

Aerial photo of the Kingston fly ash spill

Just how bad has the coal ash situation gotten in the United States? So bad that the Department of Homeland Security has told Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that her committee can’t publicly disclose the location of coal ash dumps across the country.

The pollution is so toxic, so dangerous, that an enemy of the United States — or a storm or some other disrupting event — could easily cause them to spill out and lay waste to any area nearby.

There are 44 sites deemed by the Environmental Protection Agency to be high hazard, but Boxer said she isn’t allowed to talk about them other than to senators in the states affected. “There is a huge muzzle on me and my staff,” she said.

“Homeland Security and the Army Corps [of Engineers] have decided in the interests of national security they can’t make these sites known,” she said.

There are several hundred coal ash piles across the nation, she said, all of them unregulated.

“If these coal ash piles were to fail they’d pose a threat to the people nearby,” she said. While keeping it from the public, DHS is alerting first responders as to the location of the piles.

“I believe it is essential to let people know,” said Boxer, arguing that if people knew what was in their backyard they’d press public officials to clean it up and protect the area. “I think secrecy might lead to inaction…I am pressing on this.”

Especially in the wake of Kingston fly ash disaster, which was the worst environmental disaster ever in the US– worse even than the Exxon Valdez- this seems pretty simple to me: climate change is caused by greenhouse gases, coal is the major contributor to CO2 emissions, coal ash is so dangerous we can’t even know where the dumps are because of national security… so, let’s stop burning coal? That’s a solution so easy, it’s not surprising anyone in Washington (or for that matter, Austin) hasn’t proposed it.  Oh wait, we have.  It’s called a coal moratorium, and we should be doing it.  For more info, visit www.coalblock.org

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