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Archive for January, 2010

A critical court ruling today rang the first chime in what could be the death knell of the so-called “nuclear renaissance,” starting with the failed expansion of the South Texas Project (STP).

This afternoon’s ruling by 408th District Court Judge Larry Noll that CPS Energy can safely withdraw from the proposed STP expansion project without losing all its investment offers the utility and the city of San Antonio the cue they’ve been waiting for to exit the national nuclear stage. Combined with the NRG Energy CEO’s announcement during a shareholder and press conference call this morning that NRG would “wind down the project as quickly and economically as possible” if CPS withdraws or STP does not receive federal loan guarantees, this news marks a major blow to those who claim nuclear power is a viable alternative to fossil fuel energy. The expansion project calls for two new nuclear reactors at a site with two existing reactors.

slide 8 of NRG's "STP 3&4 Nuclear Project and CPS Litigation" presentation given at shareholder and media conference call Friday, January 29, 2010 8:00 a.m. ET

These events give credence to the contention made over the past five years by opponents of nuclear power that it is a needlessly expensive and risky way to meet future energy needs.. In less than a year, the price of the STP nuclear expansion ballooned from around $5 billion to more than $18 billion. Given this case study of nuclear power’s failure, we must call into question the federal government’s decision to increase federal loan guarantees to support oversized, untenable projects that are already proving too risky for private investors.

Public Citizen calls on both CPS Energy and NRG Energy to stop throwing good money after bad with their nuclear expansion plans and halt the project. Thankfully, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro intervened by putting the project on hold before costs jumped too far out of San Antonio’s reach. Given the court’s announcement that the city’s interests are protected, we hope San Antonio will take the next responsible step and bow out entirely.

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

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Also cross-posted at our Energy Blog:

President Obama announced this morning he was putting the government on a low carbon diet. Through a series of initiatives, he hopes to decrease energy consumption through efficiency and switching to alternative energy that is less carbon intensive.

As the single largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy, the Federal Government spent more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone. Achieving the Federal GHG pollution reduction target will reduce Federal energy use by the equivalent of 646 trillion BTUs, equal to 205 million barrels of oil, and taking 17 million cars off the road for one year. This is also equivalent to a cumulative total of $8 to $11 billion in avoided energy costs through 2020.

“As the largest energy consumer in the United States, we have a responsibility to American citizens to reduce our energy use and become more efficient,” said President Obama. “Our goal is to lower costs, reduce pollution, and shift Federal energy expenses away from oil and towards local, clean energy.”

Fun fact 1: The US government uses approximately as much energy as the entire country of Austria.

Fun Fact 2: Similar initiatives made by states have netted huge results. The state government of Utah, led by governor Jon Huntsman (who Obama named ambassador to China, you may remember), invested $1.5 million in energy efficiency for government agencies expecting a 10 year payback. They made it back in 3– and now they save over half a million dollars in energy costs a year. Efficiency is an economy of scale– and I’m willing to be the entire government of Utah would not even fill in one of the large federal agency buildings around DC.

Fun Fact 3: Texas has its own “No Regrets” greenhouse gas reduction strategy in accordance with the passage of SB 184, which Public Citizen supported: don’t forget that Sunday is the last day to submit your energy efficiency ideas to the state comptroller’s office. For more info see: www.TexasNoRegrets.org

I think this is a domestic spending freeze everyone can get behind.

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TODAY is our National Coal Ash Day of Action –  please ask the White House to allow the US EPA to finally regulate coal ash as the hazardous waste it is. Currently, coal ash is less regulated than household trash!  This toxic waste stream has never been regulated and that must change, now.

1.  Please send an email to President Obama:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

2.  Call the White House:
  • Comments: 202-456-1111 – leave a message
  • Switchboard: 202-456-1414 – talk to an operator
  • FAX: 202-456-2461

This toxic waste is often stored in wet, slurry impoundments  like this TVA one that failed just over a year ago in Tennessee. Such facilities post the risk of catastrophic failure – the TVA disaster was labeled one of the worst environmental disasters in history by the EPA. Toxic sludge can leech and runoff into nearby watersheds over the course of years, contaminating the ecosystem. The ash is also sometimes stored in dry landfills, as is often the case in Texas. While these landfills don’t pose the same catastrophic risk of slurry impoundments, they still contaminate the environment through leeching, runoff and by the wind blowing the toxic dust off the piles.

It is extremely important that Texans call in because Texas tops the list of states at risk from coal combustion waste. The coal industry is attempting to get dry-ash landfills exempted from new regulations – and most of the coal ash in Texas is stored in this fashion. It is the same, exact, toxic substances in both storage facilities, the only difference is whether or not you mix it with water. ALL coal ash waste MUST be regulated as the hazardous waste it is. (more…)

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Right now the EPA is accepting public comments on proposed new ozone standards that will make the air we breathe cleaner and our communities healthier, but they are facing fierce opposition from the coal industry and its allies. The Houston EPA hearing on new ozone standards is one of only three across the country (the other two are in Virginia and California), so this is a big deal!

Can you join us for an important EPA public hearing on hazardous ozone standards in Houston on February 2nd?

The final decision by the EPA will have an impact on our air quality for decades, but they need to hear from you.

Who: The EPA and you, your friends, family and neighbors.  There will be carpools from around the state.

What: EPA public hearing on proposed revision of the ozone standard which would improve the air quality in Texas

Where: Hilton Houston Hobby Airport, Moody Ballroom, 8181 Airport Boulevard, Houston, TX 77061 (map)

When: Tuesday, February 2, from 9:30am – 7:30pm (or later if there are still people waiting to testify!)
– 10:45am: Morning press conference/rally
– 6:30pm: Evening rally with speakers

RSVP!

Texans deserve standards that follow the law and abide by the Clean Air Act.  There are twelve new coal plants proposed in Texas, and we already have 17 coal plants up and running (some of the dirtiest in the country).  We deserve better.

Thanks for all that you do!

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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There’s new information out as to how Texans will be affected by future climate change impacts, and its not looking good.  According to new studies and modeling, the number of powerful Catergory 4 and 5 hurricanes will likely increase along with global temperatures, as will the overall frequency and severity of storm activity such as tornadoes and hail storms.

A new study published in the prestigious journal Science based on “the most extensive computer modeling of storm activity to date” indicates that though the overall number of Atlantic storms will likely fall 30% by the end of the century, the number of powerful Cat. 4 and 5 storms could increase by 81%.  As someone who has lived on the Gulf Coast, this information is a pretty huge cause for concern.  Usually when you hear that a big storm is coming, you can at least rest easy until you know its going to be a bad one — no need to batten down the hatches for a tropical storm.  Looks as though that luxury will soon be lost.

Then at a conference at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business, weather researchers announced that

climate change will likely increase the frequency and severity of storm activity in Texas, an area of the country that is especially vulnerable to the “triple threat” of hurricanes, hail storms and tornadoes

Dr. Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory said that straight-line winds, which are created when areas of high and low pressure collide, will increasingly become a greater threat to structures such as homes and businesses.

As evidence mounts about the negative impacts of climate change, we can only hope that Texas lawmakers and decision-makers will come to see the desperate need for comprehensive legislation to mitigate these effects.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Tuesday January 26th at 4:30p

Main Plaza (in front of City Hall) — Rally & Press Conference

Two national coalitions, the Energy Action Coalition (EAC) and the Center for Community Change (CCC) join with Southwest Workers Union and local grassroots organizations to call on Mayor Castro to take real steps towards reducing energy consumption and generating good, green jobs for the City. Wearing green hard hats, young leaders of organizations from North Dakota to Florida, Washington to Arizona support the fight against expansion of the South Texas Project, to phase out coal and dirty energy sources, to create a comprehensive free weatherization program for low-income families, to invest in solar energy and for a job creation programs in the green energy sector. (more…)

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Have you moved since the last election cycle? New to Texas? Never voted before? Then hurry, register to vote now or you won’t be able to vote in the March primary!  Many important public offices will be up for grabs this year, including the Governor, Lt. Governor, Agricultural Commissioner, and Railroad Commissioner, and energy is sure to be a big campaign issue.  You don’t want to miss your chance to do your civic duty/make your opinion count/interject the comment “well don’t blame me, I voted for so-and-so” in political conversations. So get registered!

We checked in with the Secretary of State’s office on the deadline to make sure we didn’t tell you wrong, so here’s the skinny from the horse’s mouth:

Monday, February 1, 2010 is the last day a person may submit (in person, to a deputy voter registrar or postmarked) an application to register to vote in the March 2, 2010 primary election. Since the statutory deadline of the 30th day before primary election day falls on a Sunday, the deadline is extended to Monday, February 1, 2010, the 29th day before primary election day, the next business day. (Election Code Section 1.006, 13.143(e), 15.025(d)). This is also the last day a voter who has moved to a different election precinct within the county may submit a change of address to be eligible to vote (in the general primary) in the precinct of his or her new residence. An application for registration submitted by mail is considered submitted to the voter registrar on the date it is properly placed in the mail.

We hope that this information answers your questions. If you need additional assistance, please e-mail or contact the elections division toll-free at 1-800-252-8683 (VOTE).

Elections Division Staff
Texas Secretary of State
1-800-252-8683
[email protected]

To get a voter registration card, find out about voter registrars in your county, or to change your name or address online, visit the Secretary of State’s “Voter Information” page.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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San Antonians should be proud today, when Mayor Castro will dedicate the Mission Verde green jobs training center and demonstration lab at the former Cooper Middle School on the west side.

The center will bring together sustainability education and the City’s green jobs ambitions by teaching students weatherization techniques and offering on-the-job training.  The project will “provide jobs that lift up the neighborhood“, offer “a 21st-century education in one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Antonio” and will give a new lease on life to a previously abandoned school building.  The center’s centerpiece is a zero-energy, solar powered house that students at Texas A&M built modularly for the 2007 Solar Decathalon competition.

The Mission Verde Center is an exciting step towards San Antonio’s vision of decentralized, local power and an accessible, inclusive green economy strong enough to lift all boats. As Greg Harman, environmental reporter for the San Antonio Current, put it

Community green-power centers like the Cooper Center, when hitched to a soon-to-be established city program expected to allow all income levels to receive loans for solar power and energy efficiency upgrades — loans which can in turn be paid off through the energy savings realized by the homeowner — have the potential to forever change the way San Antonio is powered.

Projects like this represent, in my opinion, one of the most exciting aspects of the climate movement.  In our switch to a cleaner,greener America, we have the opportunity to simultaneously tackle job losses, social inequality, public health, and environmental degradation. Kudos to the city of San Antonio for taking steps to create an inclusive green economy that would make Dr. Martin Luther King proud.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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The Texas Progressive Alliance congratulates the city of New Orleans for its first Super Bowl as it provides an instant replay of its blog highlights for the week.

Something stinks about the recent TCEQ Barnett Shale air quality testing in Fort Worth and in Flower Mound. Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

Off the Kuff looked at a report on the economic impact of dropouts.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme sympathizes with Lamar Smith’s constituents who were told they must contact Smith’s office if they want him to stop illegally calling their cell phones. Smith’s breaking the law and his solution is to make his constituents ask him to stop.

WhosPlayin reposted a article from 2007 about the corporation: Don’t hate the player, change the game, which is especially apropos this week.

A Republican in Democrats clothing tries to ride into office in Dallas County. SDEC members and precinct chairs say no way to this Eagle Forum darling at The Texas Cloverleaf.

Citizens of Texas say &^%$ Governor Perry! for screwing up the state after 10 years. Add your own!

WCNews at Eye On Williamson takes a glass half-full approach in analyzing the muffed election last week Let’s HOPE it’s seen as a wake up call.

Right-wing bloggers gathered in Austin to worship Rick Perry’s pistol. Seriously. Read the entire revolting display of sycophancy at Brains and Eggs.

BossKitty at TruthHugger is continually amazed at general ignorance concerning the actual words in the US Constitution. Interpretations abound from the mouths of people who have never read the document, or do not comprehend the words in context. Embellishments and fantasy surrounding this document are spoken every day. What is especially disturbing is how these fantasies infiltrate America’s politics. To be elected in some regions, a politician must fertilize the fantasy. Perspective must return to how Americans regard the Law of the Land. American Theocracy divorces US Constitution, promotes terrorism.

Over at TexasKaos, Boadicea offers a little not so subtle advise to Democrats who find themselves unmanned by the events of last week. She calls it Dear Democrats: Balls.. Trust me, you will like the video she found to illustrate her point!

Neil at Texas Liberal made note of the fact that just two months remain before his tenth wedding anniversary. Neil is damned glad about his marriage. Neil is not certain he could advocate for liberal causes if he did not have such a solid personal relationship in his life to help him manage his frequent anger at the world. The personal and the private are often connected in many ways that we may not often consider.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Wednesday January 27th in Houston the  Center for the Study of Environment and Society and the Shell Center for Sustainability are holding a public talk on climate change. Check out the infos below:

“The Great Climate Change Debate: Global Climate Models and the Evidence”

with Dr. Richard S. Lindzen

Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, MIT and member of the National Academy of Sciences

and Dr. Gerald North

Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Atmospheric Sciences and Oceanography at Texas A&M

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
7:00 PM
McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall
Rice University
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

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Austin is not alone in preparing for clean and affordable energy.

When good news like this comes across the internet like this, we have to share. From the cloudy northwest:

Portland General Electric Co. would shut down the state’s only coal-fired power plant 20 years earlier than planned under a proposal it hopes to finalize with state and federal regulators in the coming months.

Essentially, the new plan to shut the Boardman plant down 20 years earlier than planned is to avoid extra costs for pollution controls (more than $500 million by 2017) and avoid carbon risks.  PGE still owes $125 million on the plant, and replacing the 500 MW of power will have its costs too, but read on…

Based on its analysis of carbon and natural gas prices, however, PGE maintains that a 2020 shutdown would be the low-cost, least-risk plan for utility ratepayers and shareholders [emphasis mine]. Under the existing plan, both face the risk of making the huge investment to control haze causing pollution – which does nothing to control the plant’s carbon emissions — then seeing the plant close anyway if global warming legislation or a carbon tax makes its output prohibitively expensive.

Read the full article here. Coal represents about a quarter of PGE’s generation mix. (Los Angeles also has a goal to get out of coal by 2020.)

Austin Energy has similar plans to get out of its only coal plant, the Fayette Power Project. No target date is set yet, but the utility’s 2020 generation plan would reduce Austin’s dependence on it by 20-30%. The next two years will be important as Austin works with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas  (the grid operator for most of Texas) and the Lower Colorado River Authority (co-owner of Fayette) to see what the most practical and fair way out. Learn more about the resource plan and some excellent additional recommendations at www.cleanenergyforaustin.org. You can also learn a lot from AE’s website www.austinsmartenergy.com.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Blasting on Coal River Mountain was halted due to a tree sit by three activists: Eric Blevins, 28, Amber Nitchman, 19, and David Aaron Smith, 23.  On standby at the trees’ base were the direct supporters Josh Graupera, 19, and Isabelle Rozendaal, 22. Associated with Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice, these activists are opposed to the devastating process of mountain top removal (MTR) going on at Coal River Mountain. Perched 60 feet in the air in tulip poplars and oak trees just a stone’s throw from the blasting site these activists risked their own well being in a direct action attempt to halt the exploitation of Appalachia.

Too often people talk about how terrible something is without any action behind their words. These individuals not only understand that MTR mining must be stopped, they are willing to risk their safety and liberty to non-violently bring its operations to a halt – if even for only a day. If every person in this country who was concerned about MTR mining followed their example it would be shut down forever.

The time is long past when we should have stopped using coal for fuel in general. That we are now destroying the second most biologically diverse ecosystem on the surface of the planet in order to allow companies like Massey to stay competitive with other coal mining companies is grossly obscene. These individuals should be commended by anyone who cares in the slightest about the health of our environment and the health of the general public – and as many people who can should join in their acts of non-violent civil disobedience.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Live anywhere close to Stephenville?  Next Tuesday, January 26th there will be a forum there titled “Renewable Energy Opportunities for Rural Communities and Agriculture.”  Speakers will present information on how rural communitities, agriculture, and landowners can benefit from partnering to develop renewable resources such as wind and solar.  It will be held from 8 am to 5 pm at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center, 1229 N. Hwy 281. For more information, read the Jacksboro Newspaper posting.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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SEED Coalition opposes any radioactive waste dumping in Texas, but at minimum seeks to prevent our state from receiving waste from more than just the two Compact States and becoming the nation’s radioactive waste dump. With support from Public Citizen, Environment Texas and Nuclear Information and Resource Service and other groups, they will submit comments today to the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission. The Proposed Import/Export Rule under consideration may open the door for Texas to becoming the nation’s nuclear dumping ground and we’re making recommendations to strengthen the rule and protect public health as safety .

State Rep. Lon Burnam (District 90, Ft. Worth) will ask a series of questions of the Compact Commissioners, and try to get answers as to why they are considering the weak and risky approach taken by the draft rule under consideration.

Some of SEED Coalition’s comments can be summarized as follows:

  • The site should be limited to radioactive waste from Texas and Vermont, and have volume and radioactivity caps that match the license for the facility.
  • Waste from Texas and Vermont would more than fill up the facility, and no Out of Compact Waste should be imported.
  • The proposed import/ export rule needs to be strengthened and deemed a Major Environmental rule, so that more careful analysis can be done.
  • Radionuclides must be carefully tracked and monitored. The public has a right to know what is shipped to the site and the level of radioactivity in curies.
  • The public should be informed as to health risks from various radionuclides and meetings held in accord with the Open Meetings Act

The Compact Commission meets today beginning at 9 AM in Austin, Texas in the State Capitol Auditorium, E1.004, 1400 North Congress.

Visit www.NukeFreeTexas.org to find SEED’s comments, Rep. Burnam’s questions, a NIRS factsheet and the memo by nuclear expert Dr. Arjun Makhijani.  Press release after the jump… (more…)

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Thursday evening at 6:30pm Robert F. Kennedy Jr will debate Don Blankenship, the CEO of Massey Energy – the largest coal producer in West Virginia. The subject of debate is the future of coal, Mountain Top Removal (MTR) mining, and economic opportunities for Appalachia. Kennedy is the chief litigator for the Waterkeeper’s Alliance and a staunch opponent of coal power and MTR coal mining. The debate can be watched online Thursday night, January 21, 2010 at 5:15pm here. It will also be available on that website on-demand following the broadcast.

Blankenship is infamous for his denialist stance on global warming, and Massey Energy is infamous for violating the Clean Air Act with thousands of instances of environmental pollution violations – so bad that environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against them. Let us hope Blankenship and his company’s gross irresponsibility and criminal behavior will not be tolerated much longer, and that Kennedy will mop the floor with him tonight during the debate.

Stephen Colbert did a bit recently on the ills of MTR. Though in this segment they discuss how traditional mining would be better than MTR (and that is true) it is far more important to get us off of all coal mining and burning altogether. The efforts here are reciprocal – helping to end MTR mining will help stop coal plants and stopping coal plants helps stop MTR. Click on the photo to go to the video:

Hardest of all for Blankenship and his ilk will be to dispute this recent call by scientists to put a moratorium on all new MTR permits. A peer-reviewed study recently published in Science Magazine “unequivocally documents irreversible environmental impacts” due to MTR coal mining. Basically there is now hard, scientific proof of what we “crazy enviros” have been saying for years – that MTR mining is one of the most destructive practices in existence and must be ended. For some more previews of Blankenship and his anti-enviro rantings you can check out this video – but be sure to tune in tonight to see Kennedy go round for round with this baron of pollution and champion of denial.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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