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Archive for May 19th, 2010

In 1977, the Texas Legislature created the Sunset Advisory Commission to identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in government agencies. The 12-member Commission is a legislative body that reviews the policies and programs of more than 150 government agencies every 12 years. The Commission questions the need for each agency, looks for potential duplication of other public services or programs, and considers new and innovative changes to improve each agency’s operations and activities. The Commission seeks public input through hearings on every agency under Sunset review and recommends actions on each agency to the full Legislature. In most cases, agencies under Sunset review are automatically abolished unless legislation is enacted to continue them.

The Commission holds public hearings on each agency under review. These hearings offer the public an opportunity to testify about an agency and comment on the Sunset staff’s recommendations. Witness affirmation forms are available at the meeting if you would like to testify before the Commission Public hearings are webcast and archives are available. (more…)

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ERCOT Chair Steps Down Citing Personal Reasons

Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) just announced board of directors’ chair, Jan Newton, has resigned citing personal reasons.  Ms. Newton served on the ERCOT board since 2006 and became the chair in 2008.

Her resignation is the second major departure from ERCOT in the past eight months. In September of 2009, CEO Bob Kahn submitted his and ERCOT is still in the process of a nationwide search for his replacement.  Conjecture about the possibility that the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) chair, Barry Smitherman, (who also serves on the ERCOT board of directors as a ex-officio member) had thrown his hat in the ring for the position was cut short when Chairman Smitherman announced publically that he had decided not to pursue the job. 

At the time, while energy watchdogs agreed that Smitherman was highly qualified for the ERCOT job, they were also concerned that such an employment bid posed a conflict — first as a PUC commissioner charged with establishing the rules for ERCOT’s operation and, second, as a board member (albeit a non-voting one) of the agency he was asking to hire him. It was also unclear whether the laws governing the PUC would allow a commissioner to seek the ERCOT job.  Texas’ Public Utility Regulatory Act says commissioners can’t seek employment with a “public utility” while serving on the PUC.  ERCOT doesn’t technically qualify as a public utility, however industry insiders felt it was a gray area, and the spirit of the law looked prohibitive.  So the search goes on.

Michehl Gent, who also joined the board in 2006, will step up as the incoming chair.  Gent was former president and CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corp.

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Portland, Texas’ City Council members voted yesterday on a resolution to unanimously to support a State Office of Administrative Hearings’ judicial recommendation that an air permit sought for Las Brisas petroleum-coke fired power plant be denied or reviewed further.

Portland’s council has long-standing tradition of staying out of Corpus Christi and Nueces County matters, but back in March, after two administrative law judges recommended that the permit be denied or sent back to the state environmental agency for further review, City Councilwoman Cathy Skurow, a civil engineer specializing in environmental permitting, requested it be put on the agenda.

More than 50 people packed the City Council Chambers and the council heard twenty four-minutes of testimony from a couple of Portland residents and dozens of Corpus Christi residents, all against the project, because of concerns that the plant would be detrimental to residents’ health and harmful to the economy should the region fall out of compliance with air pollution limits.

Portland Mayor David Krebs told the crowd that he came into the meeting 100 percent against the resolution, but by the time the vote occurred, he and the others fully supported it.

Council members said the council is not for or against Las Brisas, but wanted to add its collective voice in asking the state agency to make sure the project meets environmental regulations before it is built.  Basically the Portland council put TCEQ on notice that they expect TCEQ to do what they are supposed to do to protect the health and environmenal wellbeing of citizens in the region.

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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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