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Posts Tagged ‘Austin’

The Green Sanctuary Committee is hosting a free screening of Robert Redford’s film, WATERSHED, in Austin, TX

Robert RedfordWATERSHED tells the story of the threats to the once-mighty Colorado River and offers solutions for the future of the American west.

JANUARY 31st  at  7 PM
First Unitarian Church
4700 Grover Ave. ,  Austin, TX     
free – all welcome

 

The film panelists: 

  • Tom Mason, formerly with Lower Colorado River now advisor for Environmental Defense Fund.
  • Jennifer Walker, Sierra Club Water Resources Coordinator
  • Paul Robbins, Water activist and publisher of Austin Environmental Directory.

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If you have old medicine taking up your cabinet space, mark Saturday on you calendar for the City of Austin’s  “drug take-back day” where residents can anonymously drop off any prescription drugs they want to throw away.

Representatives from Austin Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency will be at several different locations around Austin, collecting and disposing unwanted prescription medicines, no questions asked.

Saturday’s marks the seventh semi-annual “drug take-back day” in Austin and Central Texas. The event is part of a larger effort to help “clean up” the city by making sure prescription drugs are properly and safely disposed keeping them out of our waterways and landfills.

If your community doesn’t have such a program, you may want to ask your local government to consider holding such an event.

Austin Drug Take-Back

Saturday, Oct. 26, 10 am-2pm

  • Northeast: Cornerstone Church, 1101 Reinli St.
  • Southeast: City of Austin Household Hazardous Waste Facility, 2514 Business Center Drive.
  • Barton Creek Square Mall, 2901 S. Capital of Texas Highway.
  • South: Austin Vet Center, 2015 South IH-35.
  • Northwest: Travis County Transportation Commissioner Center, 8656 SH 71 in West Oak Hill.

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Our climate is changing and action is desperately needed, but that message is not getting through to to many of our leaders. Climate-Com will explore how the media can better present current climate science so that the public and our leaders will be convinced to act.

Lake Buchanan
What: A panel discussion on how we can change the way we communicate climate science and facts to the public through the media, particularly broadcast meteorologists. Featuring Jim Spencer of KXAN-TV and Kris Wilson, PhD of UT School of Journalism.

When: Sunday, October 6, 2013 from 3:30pm to 7:00pm

Where: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd., North meeting room

Who: Climate Change Now Initiative, Public Citizen’s Texas Office, KXAN-TV, UT School of Journalism, Forecast the Facts, Texas Drought Project, Austin Citizen Climate Lobby

Cost (suggested donation): $10.00 – Adults, $5.00 for students, 16 and under free **Also, free if you calculate your personal carbon footprint using an online carbon calculator and send the tons of carbon per year with your name to [email protected]**
(more…)

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Austin Affordability Summit
Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 1pm-4pm
St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. 8th
 
Hosted By:  Liveable City, HousingWorks, Public Citizen Texas, Sustainable Food Center, Austin Creative Alliance

Scott Bernstein

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Texas Capitol - north viewWith the regular session behind us and energy and environmental issues not likely to find a place in the special session, it’s a good time to look at what we accomplished.

Our wins came in two forms – bills that passed that will actually improve policy in Texas and bills that didn’t pass that would have taken policy in the wrong direction.

We made progress by helping to get bills passed that:

  • Expand funding for the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) by about 40%;
  • Create a program within TERP to replace old diesel tractor trailer trucks used in and around ports and rail yards (these are some of the most polluting vehicles on the road);
  • Establish new incentives within TERP for purchasing plug-in electric cars; and
  • Assign authority to the Railroad Commission (RRC) to regulate small oil and gas lines (these lines, known as gathering lines, are prone to leaks); and
  • Allows commercial and industrial building owners to obtain low-cost, long-term private sector financing for water conservation and energy-efficiency improvements, including on-site renewable energy, such as solar.

We successfully helped to stop or improve bad legislation that would have:

  • Eliminated hearings on permits for new pollution sources (the contested case hearing process is crucial to limiting pollution increases);
  • Eliminated additional inspections for facilities with repeated pollution violations;
  • Weakened protections against utilities that violate market rules and safety guidelines;
  • Eliminated property tax breaks for wind farms, while continuing the policy for other industries;
  • Granted home owners associations (HOAs) authority to unreasonably restrict homeowners ability to install solar panels on their roofs; and
  • Permitted Austin City Council to turn control of Austin Energy over to an unelected board without a vote by the citizens of Austin.

We did lose ground on the issue of radioactive waste disposal.  Despite our considerable efforts, a bill passed that will allow more highly radioactive waste to be disposed of in the Waste Control Specialists (WCS) facility in west Texas.  Campaign contributions certainly played an important roll in getting the bill passed.

We were also disappointed by Governor Perry’s veto of the Ethics Commission sunset bill, which included several improvements, including a requirement that railroad commissioners resign before running for another office, as they are prone to do.  Read Carol’s post about this bill and the issue.

With the legislation over and Perry’s veto pen out of ink, we now shift our attention to organizing and advocating for a transition from polluting energy sources that send money out of our state to clean energy sources that can grow our economy.

We’re working to:

  • Promote solar energy at electric cooperatives and municipal electric utilities;
  • Speed up the retirement of old, inefficient, polluting coal-fired power plants in east Texas;
  • Protect our climate and our port communities throughout the Gulf states from health hazards from new and expanded coal export facilities;
  • Fight permitting of the Keystone XL and other tar sands pipelines in Texas;
  • Ensure full implementation of improvements made to TERP; and
  • Develop an environmental platform for the 2014 election cycle.

Our power comes from people like you getting involved – even in small ways, like writing an email or making a call.  If you want to help us work for a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable future, email me at [email protected] And one of the best things you can do is to get your friends involved too.

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Press Conference RE: Austin Energy Governance 2-13-13

UPDATE

This morning, Mayor Lee Leffingwell pulled Item 29 from the consent agenda indefinately.  Item 71 has been set for 7PM

May 22, 2013

Our basic premise that governance by an elected body is more accountable is proving true.  Over the past couple months, many Austinites have expressed their concerns to City Council about a proposed ordinance that would establish an un-elected board to govern Austin Energy.

Before citizens got involved in the process, this ordinance seemed destined to pass and we all would have found ourselves with less power over an important piece of our local government.

As citizen’s began to voice their concerns the majority of city council members heard their constituents and the ordinance was substantially changed. Councilmembers deserve a lot of credit for the work that they have done to improve this ordinance.  However, it would still establish an un-elected board, which is a dangerous road to go down because such a board could be granted more powers in subsequent ordinances.

Discussion of the ordinance that would establish an un-elected board to govern Austin Energy has been set for 7 pm this Thursday (5/23).  It is item #29 on the agenda. (click here and select item 29 to watch the portion of today’s work session concerning this ordinance)

If you wish to sign up to speak on it or just to register your opinion, you can do so at the kiosks inside City Hall.

Because of the changes made to the ordinance in response to citizen participation in the process, the primary supporters of the ordinance, including Mayor Leffingwell, now no longer support it.  Thus, the ordinance may be withdrawn on Thursday morning, so look at the agenda before heading to City Hall Thursday evening.

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Join 360.org with a message to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

RSVP on Facebook: facebook.com/events/167981560029199/

Here are the details:

  • What: Austin Tells Obama: No KXL!
  • When: Thursday, May 9 at 3:30pm
  • Where: Obama will be speaking at Applied Materials at 9700 US Highway 290 East. We are going to be meeting at Uncle Bob’s Self Storage- 9717 U.S. 290 Austin, Texas at 3:30pm and will try and get as close as possible to the event location.

Applied Materials is a technology company that makes solar panels. Obama will probably be speaking about clean energy and he needs to get the message that he cannot support a clean energy economy and also approve the Keystone XL pipeline, one of the dirtiest energy projects in the world.

President Obama already supported construction of the southern leg of Keystone XL through Texas and Oklahoma, but he has a chance to reverse course and make the right choice on the crucial northern leg of the pipeline. 350 organizers have met him at every one of his public events in the past few weeks — including overseas — help them keep the pressure on when he comes to Austin. We can’t let him talk about clean energy without speaking up about Keystone XL.

This is one of the best ways you can show the President that Keystone XL does not fit into a clean energy future. So, invite your friends and neighbors and co-workers, and take an hour to join tomorrow. Click here to RSVP!

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While Austin City Council continues to move forward with an ordinance to transfer governing authority of Austin Energy from our elected City Council to an unelected board, Austin democracy is being attacked at in the state legislature as well.  Senate bill 410, sponsored by Senator Kirk Watson and Representative Paul Workman, would allow the city to establish an unelected board without a charter election, as our city charter calls for.

The issue of who should govern Austin Energy is important, but it’s also local in nature.  There is no need for state to amend Austin’s charter.  That is a right reserved for the citizens of Austin.  If the changes proposed by City Council are truly in the best interest of our city, that case should be made to the voters and decided upon at the ballot box. 

To have a state representative who doesn’t even live in Austin carrying a bill to change our charter is unacceptable.

The Austin City Charter was adopted by the people of Austin and the people of Austin approved a governance structure for Austin Energy that is accountable to the people through elections.

An unelected board won’t be directly accountable to the ratepayers and wouldn’t necessarily represent our values.  As we debate this issue in Austin the unelected board at San Antonio’s CPS Energy is slashing the rate customers with solar installations will receive for their energy in half without first consulting the public or the solar industry.  Austin Energy customers could be facing similar changes if we don’t act now to protect our rights.

SB 410 has passed the Senate and will be heard by the House Committee on State Affairs tomorrow.

Please consider attending the hearing and speaking against SB 410.

What: Hearing on SB 410 to change Austin’s charter to move Austin Energy governance to an undemocratic board without a vote by the citizens of Austin, as our charter requires.

When: 1:00pm on Wednesday, May 1

Where: John H. Reagan (JHR) building, room 140 – 105 W. 15th St., Austin, TX, 78701

Why: Because Austin Energy’s governance structure will impact decisions going forward, including on renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and rates.  This is the decision that will determine how other decisions are made.

You can register against the bill at the kiosks outside of room 140.  Even if you don’t wish to speak, registering against the bill would be helpful.  We hope you’ll consider saying a few words about the value of local democracy though.  Speakers will be limited to 3 minutes each.

SB 410 is anti-democratic and is one more example of the state government trying to interfere with Austin’s internal policies and governance.

We need your help to stop this bill.

Public opposition to SB 410 at Wednesday’s hearing may be the only thing that can ensure that our Austin representatives don’t let this bad bill move forward.

Please email Kaiba White at kwhite (at) citizen.org if you can attend the hearing at 1:00pm on Wednesday.

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I was part of and witnessed an inspiring evening at Austin City Hall yesterday.  Engaged citizens came together to speak passionately about the importance of maintaining democratic leadership for Austin Energy, our city’s electric utility.

Many people talked about wanting the right to vote on a change in governance, about the importance of accountable leaders and about the need for multiple public hearings to discuss this important issue.  Others spoke about our utility continuing to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency and maintaining our commitment to assisting low income families with their electric bills.  The voices were many and varied and the process took hours.

And we made a difference.

Several important amendments were added to the ordinance that, if they remain, limit the powers granted to the unelected board and increase oversight by our elected City Council.  Councilwoman Laura Morrison continued to be our champion on the Council, but Councilmen Chris Riley and Mike Martinez also emerged as allies on numerous amendments to lessen the negative impact of establishing an unelected board.  I commend them on their willingness to listen to the public and make changes to address some of our concerns.  (It should be noted that Councilwoman Tovo was in China for City business, but has also stood by the people throughout this debate.)

There is still a lot of work to be done to eliminate the threat of an unelected board, but it’s clear that public participation does make a difference.  And that’s our fundamental point.  We, the people, wish to retain our direct access to and influence on those who govern Austin Energy.  An unelected board wouldn’t be accountable to the ratepayers.

Please visit CleanEnergyForAustin.org to stay informed over the next week.  Email me at kwhite(at)citizen.org to receive email updates.  This isn’t over yet.

I remember the feeling of community brewing

Of democracy happening

~Ani Difranco

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Would you decide who manages your retirement account by closing your eyes and pointing?  Probably not.

Press Conference RE: Austin Energy Governance 2-13-13Yet, Austin City Council is moving forward with a rash plan to hand over the bulk of its power to govern and oversee Austin Energy to an appointed board.  A well thought-out Austin American-Statesman editorial reveals the fool-hardness of making such a substantial governance change without even studying if it is needed or if the proposed change would yield better results than the current system of governance by the City Council.

This is one of those times when we need to remember that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  City Council (and a couple of our state legislators) have been reacting out of fear that Austin Energy, or parts of it, could be deregulated.  But, in light of the recent settlement reached with the out-of-town ratepayers, that is unlikely to happen.  We need City Council to stare their fear in the face and make a rational, fact-based decision.  Panicking now could cost our utility and our city for years to come.

Our city’s most valuable asset should be accountable to us, the citizens of Austin and the customers it serves.  Elections don’t always turn out the way I wish and some appointees do their jobs well, but I’m a populist, so at the end of the day, I want the power in the hands of the people.  With elections, we give power to individuals to do jobs an with elections we can take that power away.  An appointed board wouldn’t have to be responsive to citizen concerns and could make the vast majority of decisions about how Austin Energy is run and what to prioritize.

If, after studying the pros and cons of governance by City Council vs. governance by a board, City Council still believes that they are not the best people to oversee Austin Energy, an elected board would be a better option than an appointed board.

Let’s keep the power in our hands.

Tell Austin City Council not to approve an appointed board.

 

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2013-02-17 Forward on Climate Rally on the National MallI have been a Public Citizen intern since January of this year.  As a Political Science graduate student, in both Undergraduate and Graduate studies I have been immersed in the political process and the theories behind the ideas that have formed our nation.  When I was a bit younger, I dabbled in political activism, with issues like civil rights and equal rights, which are still very near and dear to my heart.  But, I never took the plunge into becoming a full on activist.

Thursday, February 14th, I had the opportunity, through Public Citizen and The Sierra Club, to get on a bus with 48 other Texans and make the long trek to Washington D.C. for the Forward on Climate Rally.  I had been to D.C. several times before, but never for a cause.  Our bus departed from Austin, Texas and made stops in Dallas and Tyler.  At each stop, new people joined us.  Each person on the bus had their own reasons for engaging in this somewhat grueling 30 plus hour bus ride.  Each person was motivated enough to take time out of their schedule and commit to a less than comfortable ride on a bus to our nation’s capital.

In the early part of our journey, many people did not know each other.  Many of us were coming from different places geographically and in life.  As the hours wound on, conversation and ideas began to flow on the bus.  People began to relax and conversations began to percolate throughout the bus.  After the formalities, discussions began on why we were on this trip.  There were people directly affected by the Keystone Pipeline.  Others were concerned with climate.  Some were just champions of the Earth.  For quite a few of my fellow bus riders, activism was old hat.  Others, such as one older, retired gentleman, still were hesitant to call themselves activists.  Some were believers in the cause, but just there for the exchange of ideas and to observe.  But, within the varying reasons for attending the trip, a common thread was clear.  Something needs to be done about climate change.  That was something everyone could agree upon, regardless of what school of thought they were coming from.

As for me, when I got on the bus, I did not really know which one of these types I was.  Climate change has always been a concern to me.  I try to live a “green” life.  I knew the Keystone Pipeline was bad news from things I had read and heard, but I suppose that I was never mad enough to do anything about it.  For me, civil rights and related social issues had always been the most important…

As the trip wore on, we all began to become friends.  We shared experiences and ideas.  By the time we arrived in D.C., we were no longer a bus full of strangers.  There was a feeling that we were a team, and some of us had become quick friends.  Our group spanned many different generations and encompassed many different levels of involvement in the cause. 

Friday night and Saturday, through some downtime and tourism, the group continued to solidify.  Our bonding was increased through a night on the town and sightseeing, but the main event was yet to come.

Sunday, February 17th began by loading on the bus and heading to the Public Citizen D.C. office for breakfast and some interviews with a reporter.  Outside, the cold was biting, with a wind chill of 6 degrees.   As we prepared to depart for the National Mall, the excitement level was high despite a lack of sleep and the cold weather. 

2013-02-17 Forward on Climte Rally March on the White HouseWe arrived near the Washington monument to a sea of busses.  Hundreds of busses.  We arrived about an hour early, and there were people as far as the eye could see ready to participate in democracy.  The estimates of number of people at the Forward on Climate rally ranged from 35,000 to 50,000.  As the rally began, speakers began to deliver messages from many different points of view.  Some were directly affected by the pipeline, other were speaking of climate change and activism.  The excitement level of the crowd increased with every speaker.  The climax of the rally was the 10’s of thousands of us marching to the White House.  The street was packed from curb to curb all the way around the White House.  We now know that President Obama was playing golf with Tiger Woods and oil executives, so he did not see the awe –inspiring site of that many people united for our climate.  Everywhere you looked there were signs.  When you stopped to listen, you could hear chants that would begin with one person and end with a united crowd chanting in solidarity.  While marching around the White House, you almost forgot how cold it was. (It was really cold)  When we returned to the National Mall, I had a sense of accomplishment.  You could not help but feel that we had done something important, united together as a group as varied as any ever assembled.  People of different ages, races, economic backgrounds, and geographic locations; all united in for the planet.  It was then that something I should have realized all along dawned on me.  Climate change and human/civil rights are intertwined.  They are so deeply related, that it is almost hard to see the preverbal forest for the trees.  Without one, there cannot be the other.  It also dawned on me that this is the fight of our generation.  This is the legacy that we should pass on to our children and their children. Our Earth and our climate is intrinsically a human right.  If we do not take action, there may not be an inhabitable planet for future generations, which would be the greatest violation of human rights in our history.  Through the interactions on the bus, the speakers, the sights and the sounds, something that should have been painfully obvious to me was finally made clear.

We cannot be passive observers in this fight against climate change.  We cannot be passive observers in things like the Keystone XL, even if we think they do not directly affect us.  (It does)  The time to remain silent is gone.  It is time to call on everyone who knows these things are terrible to use their voice, their right to free speech, and the democratic process to put an end to this insanity.  The Earth cannot wait while we sit idly by and do nothing while corporations destroy her under the guise of “progress” and “economics.”  We need to stand up and let them know that we will not stand for irresponsible practices and violations of our planet.  We must activate to preserve our climate and Earth for future generations.  We must let President Obama know that we won’t stand for the Keystone XL. 

For me, it is now no longer an option to passively oppose what is going on.  Activism is now a necessity.   I would urge everyone to use their voice, stand up and be heard.    

               

 

     

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While the proposed resolution to give Austin Energy governance responsibilities to an appointed board has been taken off the “consent agenda”, it’s still alive and kicking.

City Council will take up the issue at 6 p.m. this evening (Thurs, 2/14) and I hope you can take a bit of time before dinner to stand up for your rights. 

Austin Energy is a owned by us, the citizens of Austin.  Currently, we can influence the direction the utility takes by showing up at City Council meetings (just as I’m hoping you will tonight) and voicing your opinions.  The people of Austin have spoken passionately and convincingly on a variety of issues including development of strong solar energy programs,  assistance for the poor and keeping rates affordable for everyone.  City Council has often changed it’s course as a result of public outcry.  They do so because they know that they can be held accountable at the ballot box (or the electronic voting machine, as the case may be).

An appointed board could dramatically limit the ability that each of us has to ensure that Austin Energy is governed in a way that aligns with our values.

Some have argued that a board could focus more on the important issues at Austin Energy, but an appointed board is not the only option.  With City Council soon to be enlarged – when we move to the 10-1 system with geographic representation – there could easily be a subcommittee that focuses on the governance and oversight of Austin Energy.  If some members of City Council don’t wish to be burdened with the responsibility of governing our most (monetarily) valuable asset, then they could decline to serve on such a subcommittee.

Some Austin Energy customers who live outside Austin have complained that they have no representation in the governing body of Austin Energy (which is Austin City Council).  That’s a fair point and could easily be remedied by reserving one seat (or whatever is proportional based on population) on the subcommittee for an elected representative of those customers residing outside city limits.  What doesn’t make sense it to disenfranchise everyone just because some people aren’t currently represented.

Yes, the system could be more perfect and we at Public Citizen are always working toward making it so, but with all the awards and national recognition that Austin Energy has received, we must be doing something right.

So, please, make your voice heard at City Hall tonight.  The proposed resolution is “Item #46” and will be taken up at 6 p.m.  You can register to speak or register your opposition at the kiosks in the City Hall lobby.  You can donate your speaking time to someone else, but you must be present at the meeting to do so. If you drive, you can park in the garage underneath City Hall and get your parking validated in the lobby.

If you can’t make it to the meeting tonight, send City Council a letter letting them know you oppose the formation of an appointed board to govern Austin Energy.

For more information, please visit www.cleanenergyforaustin.org.

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Chasing Ice  is an environmental documentary film, listed in the top 15 best documentaries for the Oscars, coming to Austin TX on Feb 8-10 at Regal Arbor.

Chasing Ice follows acclaimed photographer James Balog on an epic journey as he deploys time-lapse cameras at glaciers around the world.

“You’ve never seen images like this: it deserves to be seen and felt on the big screen.” – Robert Redford

Generous support of a grant from the Kendeda Fund is allowing people to see the film for free to support education and outreach. This program features a limited number of complimentary tickets, on an invitational basis, to openings in select cities – including Austin TX!

To claim your complimentary tickets, please click on the below link and use the group code provided below.

Chasing Ice Ticket Request Form

Group Code: PCITIZEN

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The South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER) enters its second year with an exciting Summit, designed to explore, further develop, and prioritize policies and strategies needed to push energy efficiency forward in new buildings, existing buildings, and electric markets in Texas and Oklahoma.

Ed Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030, will deliver the keynote address to kick off the Summit in Austin on February 25. Mr. Mazria is an international leader on efforts to make buildings dramatically more energy and water efficient, leading the movement to establish 2030 districts in cities with goals to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. These districts have been established so far in Los Angeles, Seattle, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.

Public Citizen members can receive a $50 discount off the registration. On the registration page, select “Early Registration- Supporting Organization” and then select “Public Citizen” from the drop down menu.

Sponsors of the SPEER Summit include Dow Chemical, CCRD Partners, Mitsubishi, Environments for Living, TexEnergy Solutions, BASF, the Texas Home Energy Raters Organization, and the CleanTX Foundation.

To learn more about the Energy Efficiency Summit, please visit: www.eepartnership.org/summit

 

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We are taking our Clean Energy Works for Texas campaign to the doorstep of the Public Utility Commission (PUC) next week.  We hope you will join us for a rally on Thursday, October 18 at 12 p.m. in front of the William B. Travis building at 1701 N. Congress Avenue, Austin, TX 78701

We are urging the PUC to create rules to enforce and expand the non-wind renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Passed into law in 2005, the non-wind RPS has languished at the PUC, thanks to pressure from certain lobby interests not to enforce the law. 7 years is too long to wait.

The PUC needs to hear that the people of Texas are ready to get to work building 21st century energy economies. With more solar potential than any other state, Texas should be an epicenter of the solar industry. Our workers should be supplying solar panels, inverters and other equipment to the rest of the country and the world. Enforcing the non-wind renewable portfolio standard will send a message to investors that Texas is open for business.

http://www.facebook.com/events/186701511465498/

For more information on the campaign and to sign on in support, visit www.CleanEnergyWorksForTexas.org.

Contact [email protected] with any questions.

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