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Archive for January 14th, 2010

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

The latest interim charge of the state Senate Business and Commerce Committee provides a welcome opportunity for Texas to rein in rogue utilities like CPS Energy of San Antonio. Now tasked with studying the costs of municipally owned utilities’ generation plans and their impacts on residential and commercial customers, the Senate committee has the opportunity to protect Texans, especially low-income families, from the machinations of a utility bent on pleasing its industrial consumers at the cost of its most vulnerable customers.

CPS Energy is pursuing a risky investment in a nuclear expansion project that, depending on the final cost of the project, would raise rates between 36 percent and 60 percent over the next 10 years. The municipally owned utility has failed to adequately involve the citizenry and city government in its generation planning process. CPS Energy’s nuclear energy plan lacks any mechanism to protect consumers or low-income families, despite the fact that those customers would have to pick up the tab if the deal gets more expensive.

In comparison, the city of Austin’s generation planning process spanned two years and involved public input and roundtable stakeholder negotiations, leading to the development of special policies to protect low-income families from higher bills. Policies like built-in periodic reassessments of cost and feasibility will protect Austin residents and businesses from runaway energy costs that are so typical of large-scale nuclear construction projects. San Antonio residents need to see the same protections.

As Austin’s process clearly shows, CPS Energy can be much more inclusive and transparent. Public Citizen is grateful that the members of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee can step in and act as responsible figures in this process.

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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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If you were as frustrated as I was watching world leaders dither in Copenhagen while the Earth heats up and island nations continue making evacuation plans, there is good news on the horizon for Austin.

Austin Energy has developed a consensus plan that would establish our own CO2 cap and reduction plan. The great news is that by 2020, Austin’s investments in solar, wind and energy efficiency would allow us to reduce our dependence on the Fayette coal plant by nearly 30 percent! This energy plan will also bring a wide variety of jobs to the city, from innovative clean technology companies to installation, retrofit and construction jobs.

We need support to pass the plan now!

Public Citizen has helped form a coalition called Clean Energy for Austin. We’ve brought together businesses large and small, from Applied Materials to Greenling Organic Delivery, and 12 nonprofits such as the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund to call on City Council to pass the energy plan.

The more individuals and businesses that join the coalition, the stronger the message to City Hall that our world-renowned green city must remain a leader in reducing pollution and creating a green economy.

Sign on as an endorser of Clean Energy for Austin!

Thanks,

Matt Johnson

Some background: This fall, I had the privilege of representing Public Citizen on the city’s task force charged with analyzing Austin Energy’s 2020 plan and making additional recommendations. We voted unanimously to upgrade Austin Energy’s energy efficiency goal, create a special self-sustaining market for local renewable power like solar rooftops and parking lots, and protect consumers’ pocketbooks by conducting periodic reviews in case costs change dramatically.

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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.

Read Full Post »