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Archive for the ‘Global Warming’ Category

EW&FThe Dallas Sierra Club  is holding an “Earth, Wind & Fire Energy Summit” at the Addison Conference Centre the weekend of October 4-5, 2014. Registration is now open for this exciting event at www.earthwindfiresummit.org .

This educational conference will provide insight on both traditional and renewable forms of energy including current and future perspectives on the use of these various forms of energy, on both a national and regional scale, as well as the environmental and human impacts of these various forms of energy.

The conference will feature well-known academics, policymakers, and professional representatives from associations and institutions that focus on a wide of energy issues.

Of particular interest to Public Citizen’s efforts in Texas are:

  •  Coal — Dr. Daniel Cohan of Rice Univ. speaking about new carbon rules – retrofitting or retiring old coal plants
  •  Fuel Exports — Dr. Beach, UTAustin, speaking on oil/coal/LNG exports

This event is ideal for the public, non-profit organizations, environmental professionals, small business owners, and students who want to:

  • Gain a global perspective of the dynamic and changing nature of energy in America
  • Explore how America’s demand for energy today translates into its production and expansion in the U.S. and Texas
  • Learn about the potential human and environmental impacts caused by energy production
  • Meet and network with an array of experts, respected organizations, and other individuals working on energy issues

Space is limited for this event. Early registration is $55 through Sept. 2 and $75 thereafter.For more information or to learn about exhibitor opportunities, contact Rita Beving

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Today, Thursday August 14th, the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (TLLRWDCC) is holding a regularly scheduled meeting in the Equinox in Manchester, Vermont.

They are not making a live feed for the meeting available, but say they will record the meeting and make it available on the TLLRWDCC website.  However, they have the technology available if you are present  in Building E, Room 201S, 12100 Park 35 Circle, 78753 Austin, Texas at the TCEQ beginning at 8:00am on August 14th so you can participate in the meeting.

The agenda for the August 14, 2014 meeting of the TLLRWDCC is attached and is also available on the TLLRWDCC website at http://www.tllrwdcc.org/.

http://www.tllrwdcc.org/about-the-comission/public-meetings/

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vegetarian benefits 5Producing animals for consumption takes one of the biggest tolls on our environment and is increasing as developing countries and the earth’s population grows to new heights. Today about 70 billion farm animals are produced annually for consumption with approximately 2/3 raised in factory farms under harsh and abnormal conditions. What this is doing to the earth is more damaging than all transportation impacts combined. To start with, it takes a lot of plant calories to produce the same amount of meat calories. Through the long process of raising, slaughtering and transporting livestock, this market is contributing to 75% of annual deforestation, while polluting water from pesticides and fertilizers used to grow feed instead of crops that directly feed the human population.

Like so many other economically efficient yet environmentally awful routines America has, livestock farming is another sector that needs to be reformed… or everyone needs to become vegetarian or vegan. The environmental impacts of meat consumption are no small thing.

vegetarian benefits 65 reasons to be vegetarian:

  1.  Consuming less meat, especially red meat like beef and lamb, reduces your carbon footprint better than buying a Prius would!
  2. Both methane and nitrous oxides (byproducts of livestock waste) have drastically more climate change impact than CO2 over the next couple decades.
  3. More land would be available for direct food crops in a growing population
  4. Reforesting lands that have been stripped of their vegetation to make room for cattle
  5. Feeling good about yourself for being sustainable!

Although consuming less meat would help decrease the negative effects of livestock farming, the farmers themselves have the ability to do their big part as well. According to a report by FAO, the most GHG emitting step in the livestock farming process was feed production and processing, which accounted for 45% of the total GHG emitted by livestock farming. Using low-emission feed or keeping the livestock grass fed, which eliminates transportation costs for the feed, is a large change that could be made to drastically reduce GHG emissions into the air. Other changes include the use of energy saving equipment, recycling the manure produced from cattle instead of producing fertilizer and improve graze and farming management to use rotational land use and crop harvesting. These are just a few necessary changes that need to be made in the livestock farming business which effects would drastically lessen greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and deforestation.

Either our diet or our demand for sustainable livestock farming needs to change and it starts with the consumer. If eating meat is too good to give up then, try eating less meat and choosing the more climate-friendly options. Some animals are more efficient at converting plant calories into meat calories than others and therefore have impacts relating to feed production.  If you have to get beef, choose grass-fed beef which eliminates the production and transportation of grain feed. These small changes can make a big difference if people can take the leap and change.

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The Subcommittee on Seismic Activity will meet to hear testimony from the Railroad Commission of Texas and members of the public.  This hearing will be held in Austin at the Texas Capitol in E2.010 starting at 1pm on Monday, August 25th.

Texas-EarthquakeCOMMITTEE:   Energy Resources
SUBCOMMITTEE: Seismic Activity

TIME & DATE: 1:00 PM, Monday, August 25, 2014

PLACE:       E2.010
CHAIR:       Rep. Myra Crownover

 

 

NOTICE OF ASSISTANCE AT PUBLIC MEETINGS: Persons with disabilities who plan to attend this meeting and who may need assistance, such as a sign language interpreter, are requested to contact Stacey Nicchio at (512) 463-0850, 24 hours prior to the meeting so that appropriate arrangements can be made.

 

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According to NBC News, NBC News ACthe United States uses more air conditioning than the rest of the world combined. Dealing with the high energy peaks has led utilities to try everything from new technology to “behavioral science.”  Check out their story.

 

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1303 San Antonio in 2008

1303 San Antonio in 2008

Public Citizen’s Texas office had the fortune to office in this building for the past six years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1303 San Antonio St, Monday July 28, 2014

1303 San Antonio St, Monday July 28, 2014

Until it was demolished last week to make way for an 8 story office building.

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Back in the 1990s, the EPA introduced rules to stop acid rain by cutting the emission of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Critics thought it couldn’t be done, but inventive engineers came up with new and better ways to scrub the pollutants out of the smokestacks.

Now the same is believed for the newly proposed EPA regulations on carbon emissions, but there are many reasons to disagree with the skeptics. Many opposed are saying that the new regulations will bring elevated electricity bills and even plunge the nation into blackouts. But, in reality, emissions cuts have already been achieved in some states and those states are faring better economically than many other parts of the United States.

The new EPA carbon rules in a nutshell:

  • EPA logoBy 2030 the EPA seeks to reduce America’s carbon dioxide emissions 30% from 2005 levels.
  • States will have until June 30, 2016 (with the potential for some extensions) to come up with a plan on how to implement the rule and reduce their average emissions per megawatt-hour of electricity. If they refuse the EPA says it will impose its own plan.

Success Stories:

One way that some states have got a foot up on meeting the emissions standards is by joining the Northeastern cap-and-trade program known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which first put in a carbon cap in 2009. In the cap-and-trade system, the participating state governments placed an upper limit on total carbon emissions and issued permits for those emissions, which companies bought and sold from one another.

Nine northeastern states have already entered the program and have substantially reduced their carbon emissions in recent years. At the same time, those states have had stronger economic growth than the rest of the country.

Since 2009, the nine states have cut their emissions by 18 percent, while their economies grew by 9.2 percent. By comparison, emissions in the other 41 states fell by 4 percent, while their economies grew by 8.8 percent.

The states in the program reduced emissions faster and more efficiently than was previously assumed, and this gives a ray of hope to the rest of the United States. The sharp cut in emissions in the Northeast did not inhibit the economy there from doing just as well as elsewhere.

What’s the Problem, then?

Martin_LakeSome of the biggest opposition to the new regulations comes from heavily coal dependent states. However, many of them have been given more moderate goals to meet with the new regulations due to their reliance on coal and their limited renewable energy resources. But even in states that have made big cuts, the Obama plan is inciting some wariness with officials in those regions, who are pointing out that the plan would burden them with rigorous targets requiring them to go further in reducing emissions.

There are many different options that states can choose between when determining how to cut carbon emissions though. While cutting emissions in general is the goal, the ways of achieving those cuts can either push progress forward even more or just do what little needs to be done in order to meet the requirements. By choosing to rely on energy storage and renewable energy sources states will be able to not only cut emissions but help the world to move forward in a more sustainable way, with economic benefits for those states.

Why is Energy Storage a good option?

Energy storage has the potential to not only cut costs, but also allow us to keep energy in reserves for the future and times of emergency. Energy Storage systems are also fuel neutral, which means regardless of how the energy was generated the storage systems can save it.

Energy storage cuts costs primarily by lowering the overall cost of electricity. It also allows customers to avoid premium pricing when demand for electricity is highest. But most importantly, energy storage helps to reduce the amount of power outages and equipment failures that take place as well as limiting the amount of time the power is out. This not only helps to save time and money but it also can help to save lives.

Why are renewables a good option?

solar installationRenewable resources are inexhaustible. They can be utilized without any fear of depletion. Unlike the burning of fossil fuels, which spew dangerous greenhouse gases that lead to global warming, wind and solar farms are emissions free. That is just one of the many reasons to convert to renewables. By switching there is also a great increase in job creation. In total there were 142,698 solar workers in the U.S. as of November 2013. This is a 20 percent increase over 2012 figures and ten times higher than the national average employment growth rate, which was 1.9 percent. Veterans also make up about 9 percent of the solar workforce compared with 7.5 percent of the national economy. These numbers are all very optimistic, but while the U.S. could see million of new jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency, this will only happen with the necessary leadership, research, development, and public policy at the federal and state levels. The new EPA regulations took that first step.

The potential ways of meeting the new EPA emissions regulations are in abundance, but the only way we will start seeing change is if we begin to implement those solutions. By turning to renewable energy sources and supporting energy storage we can make sure that our country is not only able to meet the EPA regulations but goes above and beyond and to help clean up and protect our earth to make it safe for our children and their future. It is already evident that states can cut emissions and still see economic growth, so what are we waiting for?

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World Cup 2014 BrasilThe FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil has so far been the biggest and most expensive tournament in soccer history. With ticket sales almost reaching full capacity and an estimate of over 500,000 visitors from around the world, the economic impact of this year’s World Cup has reached an all-time high. However, keeping this incredible event eco-friendly has been a daunting task with large amounts of pressure from environmental protection agencies around the world.

World Cup 2014 Eco Stadium

World Cup 2014 Eco Stadium

This year’s World Cup has exceeded CO2 emissions of the last World Cup in South Africa by over 1 million tons of CO2 with a total of 2.7 million tons. According to a study done by FIFA, and estimated 60% of the CO2 emissions are produced by transportation of personnel, equipment, teams, and fans coming from all over the world. Measures have been made to help prevent and offset the environmental impact such as building stadiums that run on solar power, rainwater collection facilities, and a large recycling program, but with any event on a scale and this grand is always a large environmental toll.

World Cup 2014 - I Take Care of My DestinationUNEP and Brazil’s Ministries of Environment, Sports, Tourism, and Social Development have teamed up to create and promote Green Passport Tours which promotes sustainable tourism specifically for World Cup 2014. FIFA’s head of corporate social responsibility, Federico Addiechi, pledges to offset 100% of the 2.7 million tons of CO2 emissions starting next summer with programs in reforestation and investment in wind energy and hydroelectric power.

Even with the changes that have been made to create a more sustainable World Cup, significant environmental improvements need to be made when hosting an event like the Olympics or World Cup; which emissions can equate to having 560,000 cars on the road for a year or the burning of 1.46 million tons of coal. Aside from emissions, the materials that were needed to improve Brazil’s infrastructure, build the stadiums and other buildings, power all telecommunications and TVs around the world, which has reached up to 3.2 billion viewers according to Bloomberg, also added to the degradation of the environment. With over $4 billion in untaxed revenue FIFA received for this World Cup alone, more time and money should be allocated towards the sustainability of our environment.

Environmental improvements for future World Cups have great potential if more leadership and requirements from FIFA were to be made. With hosting the World Cup being highly desirable for countries around the world, requiring more and stricter environmental standards for the host country would drastically improve environmental quality for these events. FIFA holds great power with its sponsors and host country and has the ability to use that leverage with changes such as requiring an amount of funding specifically for environmental health, eco architectural standards for all new stadiums, positioning all new stadiums to be near public transportation for less vehicle carbon emissions, or requiring an environmental advisor to assist the planning process for stadiums, hospitality and transportation.

All of these changes have the potential of making a large positive impact on the environment along with creating more awareness to the importance of sustainability. With great the support of FIFA, the World Cup could become an event not just for the love of soccer, but for new sustainable ideas that could be showcased to the world.

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Texas Leads Nation in Generation of Wind Power, Lags in Solar Power

PC Earthday Texas AnnouncementAs Earth Day approaches, Texas environmental groups are urging state leaders to jump at a rare chance to lead the nation in using renewable energy technologies that U.N. climate scientists say are increasingly inexpensive antidotes to climate change.

“Even Citigroup is climbing on the renewables bandwagon,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “The company says that the ‘Age of Renewables’ is upon us.”

Smith quoted a recent Citigroup analysis, which said that solar, wind and other renewable energy sources are becoming cost-competitive as gas prices remain high and volatile. The report also predicted that renewables will continue to gain market share from nuclear and coal power.

Study after study has shown there is serious methane leakage during the process of drilling, fracking and processing natural gas and oil,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of Sierra Club. “Methane emissions are cooking our climate, and they are a public health threat. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Railroad Commission and ultimately the Legislature need to step up and adopt tough regulations, inspections and enforcement to prevent methane emissions.”

Last week, the International Panel on Climate Change, the U.N. panel of hundreds of climate scientists, issued its fifth and most dire report, warning that greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than ever. The report said that only concerted action to bring down emissions in the next 15 years will keep global warming to the level the international community has agreed to – an average 3.6 degrees above preindustrial temperatures.

But it also said renewable energy is an increasingly feasible and affordable alternative to fossil fuel-generated power, the culprit in rising greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable energy technologies have shown “substantial improvements,” “cost reductions” and the ability to be deployed “at significant scale,” according to the report. They also have “accounted for just over half of the new electricity generating capacity added globally in 2012, led by growth in wind, hydro and solar power.”

“Texas gets more power from wind than any other state in the nation,” Smith said. “Our climate makes solar power ideal. We need to take advantage of our natural ability to lead the nation in reducing the severity of the coming crisis.”

Texas’s wind farms already have generated as much as 38 percent of the electrical power on the ERCOT grid, according to a recent media report. That reflects the highest power output by wind turbines in the country.

Although Texas is rich in solar resources, it lags behind other states in solar-generated power, in part because the state legislature has not supplied the kind of incentives provided to the fossil fuel industry. Texas ranks 13th in the nation for the amount of power generated by solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (http://www.seia.org/state-solar-policy/texas).

Austin Energy, though, just agreed to what the Austin-American Statesman described as one of the largest solar projects in the world, which will more than double the solar capacity in Austin. The article pointed out that Austin Energy’s contract with Sun Edison is inexpensive – about 4.8 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity coming from two West Texas sites.

Texas is the No. 1 contributor of greenhouse gases in the nation. Texas emitted nearly 450 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, according to the most recent EPA statistics. The next highest contributor, Indiana, generated about 150 million metric tons in 2012. Earlier this year, Texas Gov. Rick Perry also proposed that Texas agree to take high-level radioactive waste from the Los Alamos national Laboratory in New Mexico.

“Gov. Perry’s proposal means a high level of risk for the state and its taxpayers,” said Karen Hadden, executive director of the Austin-based SEED Coalition. “Short-term exposure to waste can cause death, cancer, or birth defects. Almost every other state that has looked at this kind of proposal has said it is too risky and turned it away at the border.”

Smith added, “Texas faces both calamity and great possibility. More than most states, Texas is looking at catastrophic impacts from climate change. We’re already experiencing historic drought that has wreaked havoc on communities, businesses and the economy. But more than most states, we’re also in a position to reverse our reliance on the energy sources that cause climate change.”

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According to NBC News,  the State Department announced today that it will take more time to review the controversial Keystone pipeline proposal before a decision is made, and that will likely be after the midterm elections in November.  Click here to read the story.

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2014-04-10 Austin City HallThis afternoon, Austin City Council passed a resolution establishing a community wide goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  This is one of the most ambitions emissions reduction goals in the world and was passed in response to the recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change‘s (IPCC) most recent reports, which indicate that climate change is progressing more rapidly than projected.

The resolution will set in motion a process of updating the city’s current Climate Protection Plan to include all emissions from the Austin community, not only those from city departments – a major improvement over the existing Austin Climate Protection Plan.

Austin Climate Protection Plan ResolutionThe resolution also acknowledged that cutting emissions in the near term will have greater impact on reducing climate change, than emissions cuts closer to the 2050 deadline.  This is because carbon dioxide emissions will continue to impact the global climate centuries after they enter the atmosphere.

The ultimate goal of having net zero greenhouse gas emissions was established to ignite creative ideas in the community and to serve as an inspiration to other cities.  Austin has long been considered a leader in renewable energy and other environmental efforts, but Council recognized that other cities were now establishing more aggressive emissions reductions targets and took this opportunity to help Austin maintain its leadership role.

The resolution called for public participation in developing the new Austin Climate Protection Plan and established that boards and commissions, as well as other technical advisory groups should be consulted.  The first deadline established in the resolution is September 1, 2014, when the City Manager will be responsible for presenting City Council with a framework for meeting short and long term emissions reductions goals.  The final community wide Climate Protection Plan is to be presented to City Council by March 1, 2015.  By then the new 10-1 City Council will be in place.

In the meantime, the Austin Energy Resource, Generation, and Climate Protection Plan update will continue and could include improvements to Austin Energy’s climate protection goals.  The Austin Energy Resource Generation Task Force will have it’s first meeting at 3:30pm on Wednesday, April 16.  That meeting, and all subsequent Task Force meetings will be open to the public.

Councilman Riley sponsored the resolution with Councilman Spelman and Mayor Pro Tem Cole as co-sponsors.  The resolution passed on a 6 to 0 vote, which only Mayor Leffingwell voting against it.  The resolution passes with no fanfare, but the sponsors will host a press conference with community leaders tomorrow morning to announce this encouraging progress.

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“Human interference with the climate system is occurring, and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems.” IPCC WGII AR5

IPCC

The opening session of IPCC meeting in Yokohama.
Photo by Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP, Getty Images

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released Part 2 of its Assessment Report showing that work to limit the effects of climate change must begin now.  Part  1 came out in September 2013 and showed indisputable evidence that climate change is real, it is happening today, and human influence is the root cause. The report is the fifth such report that has come from the UN.

This week, government officials and top climate scientists are meeting in Berlin to review a 29-page draft from working group 3 of the UN’s IPCC. This third document is expected to be released later this month.

The scope of the second report takes a broad look at how climate change is impacting the Earth’s oceans, coasts, atmosphere, animals, humans and human societies. The report then examines how we must adapt to manage risks associated with climate change.

This is a stern warning coming from the world’s scientific community, and there is little doubt from the experts about the solution: cut pollution from fossil fuels and prepare for the risks associated with a warming world.

The document warns of side effects from a warming world over the next century. There is a high level of consensus from the scientific community that there will be a rise in sea level from melting glaciers, which threatens coastal cities and low-lying nations. There will also be an increase of drier areas, resulting in increased wildfires and drought.

Part of the problem with climate change is that scientists don’t have a crystal ball to predict how the environment will respond to a rise in temperatures. They are trying to predict effects of climate change over the course of decades. Scientists are anticipating that forests ecosystems could collapse and wetland ecosystems could disintegrate. They are expecting that water systems worldwide will be effected from more flooding in many places and drought in drier regions. Of course, the effects won’t be uniform everywhere.

Scientists are also noting that there could be some localized positive effects from climate change. They say that there will be fewer deaths from severe cold, but scientists are also anticipating more deaths due to heat. Some parts of the planet may become better suited for agriculture, especially in higher altitudes, but lower crop yields in other areas will outweigh those benefits. Also, scientist predict that fish and aquatic life will move around as ocean temperatures rise. However, there could be effects, both good and bad, that scientists are not expecting.

The experts are warning the world’s leaders that in order to prevent the worst consequences of climate change we need to reduce pollution, and inaction today will reduce the world’s options for managing the worst effects of climate change.

The level of carbon dioxide is up 41 percent since the Industrial Revolution nearly 200 years ago, and it could double in a matter of decades if the present trend continues.

Unfortunately, here in the US, climate deniers have hijacked the Republican Party and have stalled any meaningful debate about what we are going to do to combat climate change.

“There are those who say we can’t afford to act,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “But waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic.”

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Los Alamos National Laboratory has stored transuranic waste, debris, soil, tools and clothing contaminated primarily with plutonium that has been generated by its activities above ground for years. In 2011, the largest forest fire in the history of New Mexico came within 3.5 miles of this waste causing the state of New Mexico to ask Los Alamos to ship 3,706 cubic meters of above-ground waste from the lab to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) located 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, N.M by June 30 of this year.

A month ago we reported on a fire at the 15 year old WIPP site in our blog about a Texas interim charge tostudy the rules, laws, and regulations pertaining to the disposal of high-level radioactive waste in Texas and determine the potential economic impact of permitting a facility in Texas. Make specific recommendations on the state and federal actions necessary to permit a high-level radioactive waste disposal or interim storage facility in Texas“.  We followed up two weeks later with a report about radiation alarms going off at the same site. 

WIPP has been closed indefinitely while they investigate the fire and the radiation leaks.  In the meantime, we have learned that New Mexico plans to ship the last 20 percent of the Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear waste to the commercial Waste Control Specialists (WCS) site in Andrews, Texas starting April 1st.

What we want to know is:

  • Who authorized the importation of waste that had been slated to go to WIPP?
  • What routes are being used and are the federal requirements for designating routes for this type of waste being met?
  • Have any increases in financial assurance been required as a result of accepting TRU waste from Los Alamos?
  • Is WCS seeking to import TRU waste through license amendments?
  • Wildfires are the reason given for why the waste must be moved, but the same year Los Alamos experience wildfires close by, the WCS site also had wildfires nearby. While WCS may have “a fire truck” onsite, there is only a volunteer fire department in Andrews and Texas is about to enter its wildfire season.
  • The Transuranic (TRU) waste is highly radioactive weapons waste that is supposed to be buried a half mile underground at the WIPP site. Is there any evidence that it is safe to store the TRU waste above-ground, even temporarily?

If waste outside of the compact’s license can be re-routed to WCS without so much as a “by your leave” how are Texans to be reassured that all possible care is being taken on behalf of our welfare and well-being?  And are we going to become the nation’s high level radioactive waste repository by dribs and drabs rather than by thorough review of the suitability of a site?

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2014-03-17 EUC and RMC Hearing on Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection PlanAustin Energy customers turned out in force to support renewable energy last night.  Over 100 people packed the Shudde Fath Conference room at Austin Energy headquarters for a joint hearing in front of the Electric Utility and Resource Management commissions.  Not prepared for the enthusiastic turnout, Austin Energy staff provided additional chairs, but many attendees were left with standing room only.

Over 50 people signed up to speak at the hearing, which extended well past the scheduled ending time of 8:00 pm to about 9:30 pm, forcing some to leave before they had a chance to voice their concerns.

Citizens expressed passionate concern about climate change, water availability, water contamination, air quality, health, job creation and equity.  The common theme was overwhelming support for a rapid transition away from polluting fossil fuels to clean energy resources, including wind, solar, energy efficiency and energy storage.

Climate change was brought front and center as an issue that cannot be ignored and which demands immediate action.  The commissions heard from numerous citizens that Austin will be judged by future generations based on what we do to mitigate our impact on the climate.

One point of contention between Austin Energy and advocates has been whether or not goals, including the carbon reduction and renewable energy goals, will be expanded as part of this update of the Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan.  Austin Energy’s current goals were set as a starting point, but they aren’t nearly strong enough to protect our climate.  Last night, with climate change already impacting our communities, Austin Energy ratepayers spoke clearly in favor of substantially expanding those goals.

With the ongoing drought still weighing on many minds, the connection between water and energy was repeatedly brought up throughout the evening.  Citizens talked about water used in generating electricity at the Fayette coal plan and the billions of gallons used in Texas fracking jobs each year.

Austin Energy’s recent announcement of the 100-150 megawatt solar deal up for City Council approval this week added to the enthusiasm about renewable energy.  That project will provide Austin Energy with energy at around 5 cents per kilowatt-hour and is projected to slightly reduce customer bills.  Many ratepayers made the point that since wind and solar are already affordable, Austin Energy should support calls for increasing its renewable energy goals and should continue purchasing more wind and solar.

Click here if you want to watch the archived video recording of the meeting.

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Environmental advocacy group members of the Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition (CGCC) filed suit against the United Bulk coal export terminal in Davant for violating the federal Clean Water Act.

Coal Export Terminal Pollution on the MississippiThe terminal, owned by United Bulk Terminals Davant LLC, has operated for more than four decades, shipping millions of tons of coal and petcoke – an oil-refining byproduct with high levels of arsenic, mercury and other toxins hazardous to human health and aquatic life – every year to overseas markets.  But before they are shipped, that coal and petcoke sits in huge, open piles along the river, and blows right into the river and the wetlands when there is rain or wind.

Officially, the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN), Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) and Sierra Club are the parties that filed the suit in New Orleans’ U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The groups, represented by Tulane University’s Environmental Law Clinic, are members of the Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition (CGCC), which is working to clean-up existing coal terminals in the Gulf Coast region, stop any new coal export terminals, and promote cleaner, safer industries and jobs.

The suit contends that United Bulk has illegally discharged coal and petcoke into the river every day that it has operated for at least five years. It points out that coal and petcoke have been discharged into the river in enough quantities to produce visible spills on a regular basis. The suit also cites the EPA’s determination that storm water runoff from coal piles “can flush heavy metals from the coal, such as arsenic and lead, into nearby bodies of water.”

The international market for U.S. coal has also grown increasingly volatile. Port authorities on the West Coast and in Corpus Christi, Texas have concluded that the coal export market is simply too risky to invest significant sums in new or expanded shipping facilities.

For more information, check out The Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition’s website.

 

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