Archive for November 30th, 2010

The nation looked on in reverence Friday as 20,000 citizens were decapitated, dismembered, and burned alive in the name of Corporate America, continuing the age-old annual rite to ensure bounteous profits in the coming fiscal year.

Human sacrifice depicted using Playmobile stand-ins

. . . The blood offering follows last week’s Feast of Increasing Market Values, a yearly celebration during which Americans gather with their families under the second Q4 full moon to give thanks to corporations and to pray for cash dividends during the holiday shopping season.

Enjoy the Onion‘s take on a winter holiday ritual, click here.

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Seal of the United States Atomic Energy Commis...

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 The Shaw Group is increasing its bet on nuclear power, announcing a role in the proposed 2,700-megawatt South Texas project making it the largest nuclear construction project in Shaw’s history.

Toshiba, the Japanese company, and NRG Energy Inc. jointly own Nuclear Innovation North America, which is developing the South Texas plant.

The Shaw Power Group will get the initial engineering, procurement and construction contract for the two-reactor expansion proposed at South Texas. But Shaw will be more than the contractor. It will be a partner with Toshiba in the project.

As part of its new agreement with Toshiba, Shaw has agreed to invest up to $250 million in nuclear projects. Of that, $100 million will initially be a loan guarantee for NINA for South Texas. If the project wins its combined operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that loan guarantee will be converted into an equity investment in the project.

The Shaw Power Group strategy is not without risks. There have been questions in recent months about whether the “nuclear renaissance” in the United States will actually occur. And there have been specific questions about the South Texas project, much of them through the SEED Coalition and Public Citizen interventions in the licensing process.

South Texas still on the hunt for partners

South Texas would be a merchant energy plant and they believe they are in line for federal loan guarantees. But another merchant plant, Calvert Cliffs in Maryland, ran into trouble when Constellation Energy pulled out. Constellation said the loan-guarantee conditions were too onerous and made the project financially untenable.

Every proposed nuclear expansion has come with the caveat that these projects are too expensive (and risky) to move forward without the federal loan guarantees.  Yet when the federal government tries to mitigate its own risk, the industry has protested.   

NINA has been looking for partners for the South Texas project since San Antonio’s municipal power company, CPS Energy, went from being a 50% partner to taking just a 7.6 percent ownership in the project.

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Last week, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals awarded a major victory to Public Citizen and Sierra Club in their long standing efforts to block the Sandy Creek coal plant near Waco when it ruled that developers improperly started construction without adequate clearance under the federal Clean Air Act.

The court overturned a district court ruling saying the developers of the Sandy Creek Power Plant should have been required to show that they would employ the “maximum achievable control technology” (MACT) to limit the emissions of mercury and other pollutants once the plant was up and running.

In 2006 the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) issued the permit for Sandy Creek, relying on an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  ruling from the year before exempting coal- and oil-fired generating plants from the MACT standard.

In 2008, an appeals court struck down the EPA’s earlier ruling and, even though construction had already started on Sandy Creek, the Sierra Club and Public Citizen filed a lawsuit arguing that work could not go forward because the plant had not shown it could meet MACT standard.

The district court sided with Sandy Creek because it had commenced with construction, and that, at the time, the plant was in compliance with the rules in place.

The circuit court said in its ruling that because the EPA was wrong to exempt coal plants from the MACT standard, Sandy Creek cannot rely on that exemption to continue construction without a proper permit, and sent the case back to the district court.

Click here to see the 5th Circuit’s full ruling.

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