Earth Day Alert: STOP the fast-tracking of water permits for nukes

stp-water-pond2HB 2721 threatens to fast-track water permits for nuclear plants, which use vast quantities of water. Water is precious, and Governor Perry has just requested federal aid for all 254 counties in Texas due to statewide drought. Water permits should be given careful scrutiny, and not be rushed. This bill, which will be heard tomorrow on Earth Day, would actually deny citizens the right to a contested case hearing for these water permits!

According to Greg Harman over at the San Antonio Current’s QueBlog:

To cool down the superheated water used to create electricity can take hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per minute. According to the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) Coalition fighting nuclear power in the state, the plants proposed at Comanche Peak in North Texas would require104,000 acre feet per year: 33.8 billion gallons.

To ease the potential political stew that could come from the plants’ permit applications (if they are built), Canton-based Representative Dan Flynn filed a bill to fast-track the water permitting process. (Dan was joined by Houston’s Rep. Bill Callegari as co-author a couple days after the bill was filed and has since also been joined by reps Randy Weber, Tim Kleinschmidt, and Phil King.)

Under House Bill 2721, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality must create “reasonably streamlined processes” to move those applications along. One key way to move a controversial permit it to not allow the TCEQ refer it to the State Office of Administrative Hearings for a public airing.

Some bill text:

Sec. 5.559. NUCLEAR ELECTRIC GENERATION FACILITY PERMITTING. (a) The commission by rule shall implement reasonably streamlined processes for acting on an application for a permit, permit amendment, or permit renewal under Chapter 26 for a nuclear electric generation facility.
(b) Notwithstanding Section 26.021 or any other law, the commission may not refer any matter before the commission relating to an application for a permit, permit amendment, or permit renewal described by Subsection (a) to the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
(c) The permit processes authorized by this section must provide for acting on an application for a permit, permit amendment, or permit renewal not later than the first anniversary of the date the executive director determines the application to be administratively complete.

So not only are we setting Texas up to potentially hand over vast amounts of water during one of the most stunning droughts of record, Flynn’s bill goes out of its way to keep fact-based debate off the table.

Harman also points out that in previous period of drought, such as  just last year across the Southeast and in Europe in 2006, nuclear power plants actually had to shut down for lack of cooling water.

The bill will be heard in the House Environmental Regulation Committee this Wednesday, April 22nd, Earth Day (Oh, the irony) at 10:30 AM or upon final adjournment E1.014 at the Capitol

HB 2721 Authors: Dan Flynn (NE Texas), Bill Callegari (Katy), Phil King (Weatherford), Tim Kleinschmidt (Bastrop area), Randy Weber (Pearland, his district includes Bay City ­ home of South Texas Nuclear Project)

Nuclear plant water use:

  • Nuclear plants consume vast quantities of water. If built, the two proposed nuclear reactors at Comanche Peak would use 104,000 lake acre/ft per year and roughly 2/3 of the water evaporates. Other nukes are equally bad. NRG wants two more reactors at the South Texas Project as well.
  • Each proposed Comanche Peak reactor would use 30,000 gallons of water per minute.
  • The water becomes laced with biocides, algaecides, sediment control and pH adjuster chemicals for use in a reactor. Some, but not all of this water would be treated, and would be returned to the already contaminated Squaw Creek Reservoir. Radioactive tritium from nuclear reactors can contaminate water.

Democracy and citizen rights:

  • It would also deny citizens the right to a contested case hearing! There is no excuse for not allowing citizens to have a hearing on these water permits at the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Often permits are improved greatly through this process, and it doesn’t take long.

No energy crunch, no need to rush:

  • We’re not in a crunch for energy that justifies the fast-tracking in the bill either.
  • Luminant (TXU) is set to retire up to 3800 MW of gas plants. Some are old and dirty and should retire, but some are relatively new combined cycle plants. ERCOT has said the grid will be fine with the first round of these retirements ­ 2100 MW, and it¹s likely that they’ll later OK the full package. They wouldn’t approve these gas plant retirements this if there were a serious demand problem.
  • In fact, with the economic downturn, it’s time that the state projections of growth in electric demand be re-examined.

This bill could come up either in the morning or in the afternoon, upon adjournment. The committee has been starting up about 1:30, although there’s no guarantee, and they don’t take bills in any set order. Come testify or sign cards in opposition to the bill, and contact members of the committee ASAP.

Tell Environmental Regulation Committee Members ­ Vote NO on HB 2721!

Rep. Byron Cook (Chair) – 512-463-0646, [email protected]
Rep. Warren Chisum (Vice-Chair) – 512-463-0736, [email protected]
Rep. Lon Burnam – 512-463-0740, [email protected]
Rep. Jim Dunnam – 512-463-0508, [email protected]
Rep. Jessica Farrar – 512-463-0620, [email protected]
Rep. Kelly Hancock – 512-463-0599, [email protected]
Rep. Ken Legler – 512-463-0460, [email protected]
Rep Marc Veasey – 512-463-0716, [email protected]
Rep. Randy Weber – 512-463-0707, [email protected]