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Archive for June, 2017

Last week, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), succeeded in rushing his Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump legislation past the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee he chairs.

Now the bill (HR 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendment Acts of 2017) moves on to the full U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.  Full committee mark up is currently expected to take place next Wednesday, June 28th.

If passed there, it would then move on to the full House floor for consideration. If ultimately passed into law, H.R.3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, would launch unprecedented thousands of truck, train, and/or barge shipments of irradiated nuclear fuel, through 45 states, bound for Nevada. These shipments would pass through the heart of many major cities. They would also pass through 370 of the 435 congressional districts across the U.S.!  But before that, it would expedite the opening of centralized interim storage sites for radioactive waste in Texas and/or New Mexico, multiplying the risks.  WCS has applied for a site in Andrews County Texas and the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance, working with Holtec, has applied for a site near Hobbs and Carlsbad, NM.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry just dropped a bombshell proposal this week, at a U.S. House hearing, to also do interim storage at the Nevada Nuclear Weapons Test Site, before ultimately burying the wastes at Yucca, all against the state’s will, without its consent.

Each shipment, whether to a permanent storage site or one of the proposed “interim” storage sites, represents a potential Dirty Bomb on Wheels risk, whether due to severe accident or intentional attack. The hazardous gamma radiation that could be emitted would expose persons who are too close (e.g. living along the shipping route, getting stuck next to a shipment in traffic, etc.) to a myriad of health impacts.  Transportation routes to either the proposed west Texas or New Mexico interim storage sites would likely have nuclear waste traveling through the DFW metroplex area, Houston and San Antonio, depending upon where the waste originated.  This is an issue that Texans should weigh in on.  Dallas, Midland, San Antonio and Andrews County have already passed resolutions asking that radioactive waste not be transported through  their communities.  What can you do?

Urge your U.S. Representative to block this dangerous legislation, by voting against HR 3053 and urging their U.S. House colleagues to do the same.

The bill itself: http://docs.house.gov/meetings/IF/IF00/20170628/106210/BILLS-1153053ih.pdf

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A Delaware federal judge on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, blocked the $367 million merger of EnergySolutions Inc. and Waste Control Specialists LLC, (WCS) siding with the U.S. Department of Justice in the government’s bid to enjoin the deal on antitrust grounds.  WCS had withdrawn their application for a high-level radioactive waste storage license back in April pending this merger.  What this means for the west Texas site is not yet known, but we will keep you updated as we know more.

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Janis and Evan Bookout speaking in support of renewable energy to protect the climate (Photo courtesy of Al Braden, www.albradenphoto.com)

Yesterday morning, Austinites took time out of their day to show up at City Hall and let the Austin City Council know that we expect real leadership when it comes to adopting an updated Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan.  Many joined us in a call for carbon-free by 2030, and 75% renewable energy by 2027 goals.  The other common theme we are supporting is the need for additional programs to make the benefits of distributed solar accessible to low-income residents, renters and those in multifamily housing.

Join us at the public hearing on August 10 to call for a rapid transition to clean, renewable energy, while improving equity.

This process started last November with the creation of the Electric Utility Commission Resource Planning Working Group (which was partially appointed by Austin Energy).  But after months of meetings, the working group recommendations (which have been endorsed by Austin Energy) fall well short of leadership on either climate protection or energy equity.  The recommendations call for only 65% renewable energy by 2027, limited or no increases for energy efficiency, local solar and energy storage goals, and no solid commitments to improve access to distributed solar.

Thankfully, the Austin City Council is the board of directors for Austin Energy, so we all get a chance to weigh in with our elected officials to call for a plan that represents Austin values – doing right by our planet and our neighbors

That’s what the public hearing is for, so please mark your calendar.

At least 32 U.S. cities have committed to a 100 percent renewable energy goal and 5 have already achieved this goal.  If Austin is to claim leadership on combating climate change, a commitment to 100% carbon-free energy is needed.  This, of course, implies that all of Austin Energy’s fossil fuel generators would need to be retired.  That would include the natural gas-fired power plants at Decker Creek and Sand Hill, both located on the east side of Austin.  This would improve air quality in the city and end our utility’s contribution to fracking, which is responsible for groundwater contamination, air pollution (including methane – a powerful greenhouse gas), earthquakes and destroyed roads in Texas and other states.  With all of these harmful side effects of energy production, it is those with the fewest options and opportunities – those with the least among us – who are hardest hit.  It’s on all of us – as Austinites – to stop contributing to these negative outcomes as quickly as possible.

Daniel Llanes, of PODER – People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources, speaking in support of a transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy to protect the climate; and for greater and more diverse public input (Photo courtesy of Al Braden, www.albradenphoto.com)

As we transition to clean energy, we can and should ensure that the benefits flow to everyone in our community.  As the price of solar energy has increased, more residents and businesses are going solar to reduce their bills and their impact on the environment. There is now financing available for those who can’t pay up front, making solar accessible to middle-income residents.  That’s good news, but solar has still been out of reach for those with poor credit, renters and those living in multifamily housing (either apartments or condominiums).  Making solar accessible for these populations is challenging, but utilities, governments and non-profits around the country are digging in to find solutions.  San Antonio’s CPS Energy already has a successful solar program, called Solar Host, which is accessible to low-income residents.  What we want is for Austin Energy to take on these challenges and embrace new solutions.  Local solar goals should be expanded and incentive budgets maintained to make solar an option for Austinites at all income levels and in all types of housing.

If these ideas speak to your values, please come to the public hearing on August 10 to speak your mind.

Goals are only useful if they are high enough to spur innovation and action beyond what is already happening.  We want Austin to be ambitious in taking on climate change and equity.

Here’s what we’re asking for (3rd column):

 

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