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Posts Tagged ‘City Council’

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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The democratic governance of Austin Energy has been preserved thanks to all the citizens who have turned out and did so again last night.

It was a late night at City Hall yesterday. By the time many of us testified it was after midnight, but our efforts and those of our partners — the SEED Coalition, Texas Campaign for the Environment, other advocates and concerned Austin residents — made the difference.

The City Council paid attention to your emails and comments.

Recognizing good governance will help us ensure that our elected officials continue to be responsive to us in the future.
Instead of handing governing responsibility of Austin Energy to an unelected board, the City Council created a committee on Austin Energy to dedicate more time to the important issues facing our utility. All members of the City Council will serve on the new committee.

The City Council did exactly what we wanted by maintaining democratic control of Austin Energy and dedicating more time to our most important city asset.
Of course, we’ll continue to monitor the discussions of the new City Council Committee on Austin Energy and we’ll let you know when we need your help again to protect democracy, clean energy, fair rates and funding for our city services.

Help us show our appreciation — email City Council members and thank them.

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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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Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell just postponed a major agenda item (#15), regarding an un-elected board taking over Austin Energy. Numerous citizens were planning to attend the council meeting tonight to express  concerns, and had gone out of their way to arrange their schedules to be there. The mayor completely removed the issue from discussion, not just from a council vote.

The disregard for citizens’ input and time is appalling. Perhaps the mayor’s move is simply a response to citizens having organized more effectively than special interest groups, such as CCARE, who haven’t been able to mobilize support for changing the governance of Austin Energy.

The ordinance may not have been ready for a vote tonight, but the mayor should have left the item open for discussion for the large number of citizens who have set time aside to be present tonight.

We hope that all the engaged citizens that planned on attending the city council meeting tonight will come to the meeting on May 23 and show the Mayor that the public won’t be silenced.

Please contact us with any questions on this issue:

Kaiba White, Public Citizen, [email protected], 607-339-9854 
Karen Hadden, SEED Coalition, [email protected], 512-797-8481 

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Today, Thursday (April 11th) at 4 PM Austin City Council will vote on ordinance that would hand control of the city’s municipal utility, Austin Energy, to an unelected board chosen by corporate headhunters.  This change could open the door to industry insiders and special interests controlling Austin Energy, the city’s largest asset, valued at $3.9 billion.  It’s OUR utility and we should elect those who manage it.

There will be a first vote on this ordinance comes tomorrow despite great public outcry about the rushed nature of this plan, the failure to hold a real public hearing and the failure to acknowledge the millions of dollars wasted at other utilities, such as CPS Energy, at the hands of unelected boards.

A percentage of the profits of Austin Energy currently goes to fund programs for the city, but that funding could be at risk with an unelected board in charge.  Reduced funding could seriously jeopardize our parks, roads, libraries, clinics and public safety department.  There is also some concern that the move to make our public utility more of a corporate model could mean that our green energy and low-income programs are at risk.

This is your utility and we encourage you to come to City Hall this afternoon.  Speak if you can, or, if you prefer, donate your time to a friend.  While the “time certain” has been set for 4 pm, please don’t let that deter you.  Come even if you can’t arrive by 4 pm. City Council has been known to be hours late in getting started on an item. We’ll have food on hand.

The backup material (attachment 3 on item #11) includes the draft ordinance, the new report (which is an interesting compilation of data, but doesn’t support the concept of changing Austin Energy’s governance), and a list of 15 ways that the ordinance conflicts with the City Charter.

Even if you can’t attend, but can come by City Hall at some point in the day, please go by and register against agenda items #11 and #45 at the kiosks inside.

You can also call or email council members, specifically Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Members Sheryl Cole, Bill Spelman, Chris Riley and Mike Martinez, and ask them to halt this fast-tracked, undemocratic ordinance. Remind them that the utility is ours – not theirs to give away.

City Clerk 974-2210
E-mail all City Council Members at once: http://www.austintexas.gov/mail/all-council-members
Lee Leffingwell 974-2250 [email protected]
Sheryl Cole 974-2266 [email protected]
Chris Riley 974-2260 [email protected]
Mike Martinez 974-2264 [email protected]
Kathie Tovo 974-2255 [email protected]
Laura Morrison 974-2258 [email protected]exas.gov
Bill Spelman 974-2256 [email protected]

More info is online at www.CleanEnergyforAustin.org.

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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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Solar Austin held a debate between Austin City Council Place 3 candidates Randi Shade and Kathy Tovo. The focus was on energy issues. Here is a brief excerpt from the debates where each candidate addresses a question about how an increase of electricity rates should be handled.

[vimeo=25250426]

The election is this Saturday, June 18. You can view the entire debate here:

[vimeo=25244125]

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The Texas Progressive Alliance heads into March Madness with its own bracket of news and links for the week.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders how Republicans can be so violently against having services they desperately need?

Off the Kuff analyzed county returns in the primaries for Governor, Lite Guv, and the Commissioners.

When are you “too gay” for your job? The Texas Cloverleaf finds out. (more…)

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Last Thursday, three years after Mayor Will Wynn stated, We’re going to lead by example1 referring to adoption of the City’s Climate Protection Plan, Jake Stewart, former manager of Austin’s Climate Protection Program who left the program in dissatisfaction, stood before City Council to present a successful citizen petition drive.

The ongoing petition’s objective is to let Austin’s leaders know there are numerous citizens who appreciate and support the City’s hard work on climate issues, and who believe in working together to achieve as much as possible.

Jake was complimentary to those present, thanking 2007’s council for its initiative and challenging today’s council to recognize climate leadership can be leveraged to create economic stimulus for the whole community. Jake urged today’s leaders to renew council’s 2007 commitment to being the leading the city in the nation” in climate protection and continue moving forward.

See the petition (and sign!)

1. Austin’s city council adopted its climate protection plan March 2007

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Tonight, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell will host a town hall meeting on an energy plan for Austin Energy that would establish our own carbon dioxide cap and reduction plan. The great news is that by 2020, Austin’s investments in solar, wind and energy efficiency would allow us to reduce our dependence on the Fayette coal plant by 30 percent! The town hall meeting is our opportunity to show widespread public support for the plan.

Please attend the mayor’s town hall meeting at 6 p.m. TONIGHT, Monday, Feb. 22, at the Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Rd.

Public Citizen will have a table outside the auditorium where we will gather signatures for the Clean Energy for Austin coalition. Working with other environmental organizations, we’ve gained the support of more than 70 businesses, 18 nonprofits and over 200 individuals, who are calling on the City Council to pass the clean energy plan. But we need you to come to this town hall and show your support.

This is your opportunity to ask questions, learn more and have your input heard by our mayor. In addition, city officials will be asking questions of the audience, so you can tell the mayor and City Council that you want a clean energy future for our town.

So please endorse Clean Energy for Austin, and come to the meeting Monday night. We hope to see you there!

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Statement of Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

Today’s announcement that as a part of a settlement with NRG Energy, CPS Energy will withdraw its application for a federal loan guarantee for the South Texas (Nuclear) Project (STP) expansion and end further investment in the project demonstrates nuclear plants are too costly and too risky to build.

CPS Energy and the San Antonio City Council have signaled their desire to stop throwing good money after bad at STP, a message we hope will tell the U.S. Department of Energy that this plant is a poor candidate for federal loan guarantees. This debacle should show the federal government that nuclear loan guarantees are a fundamentally flawed and wasteful use of taxpayer money.

At $18.2 billion, the cost of STP has already tripled in just a year. When STP 1 and 2 were built, they ended up being six times over-budget and eight years behind schedule, and STP 3 and 4 look like they are on track to beat out that poor performance record.

Today’s announcement is a victory for the many citizens of San Antonio that have worked so hard in the last year to bring openness and accountability to the city’s participation in this project. We applaud CPS for wisely seeing the futility of wasting more time and energy on this flawed nuclear endeavor. We hope that they will be satisfied with the deal they’ve gotten and avoid the temptation to increase their ownership in the project. CPS has finally reached a settlement that shields San Antonio ratepayers from the financial risks of yet another nuclear deal gone wrong. Any future investment would throw that protection to the wind.

On Thursday, the City Council will vote on a proposed rate increase for CPS. The City Council should put a firewall in that proposal to ensure that no unauthorized money will be siphoned off to buy a bigger stake in STP.  San Antonio can’t afford to let this rate increase become a back door to continued nuclear investment.

We also have to wonder how NRG will move forward, without another clearly delineated partner in the project. Less than a month ago, NRG announced that if CPS “does not meet future obligations representative of its ownership interest in the site”, they “will wind down the project as quickly and as economically as possible.” We certainly hope that NRG CEO David Crane will remain true to that expressed intent to protect his shareholders from the next financial failure in a long historic line of overly expensive, poorly executed nuclear projects.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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UPDATE: Here it is. Great job KLRU, KUT and the Statesman for putting together a great show on an important topic!

http://www.klru.org/aai/

Unable to  embed unfortunately.

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Public Citizen participated in developing an energy plan for Austin to cut carbon emissions, use more renewables, and promote energy efficiency. And because we did, I’m about to be famous!

Pay no attention to that girl trying to steal my spotlight

Recently, I was one of several energy experts interviewed about the plan for a special program called “Austin at Issue: Energy for the Future”—a joint project of KLRU-TV (Austin’s PBS), KUT, and the Austin American-Statesman.

Watch “Austin at Issue: Energy for the Future” this Thursday, February 18, at 7:30 p.m. on KLRU or listen at 8 p.m. on KUT 90.5 FM.

City Council should vote on the plan to brighten Austin’s energy future sometime in March. To educate Austinites about the plan, the mayor is holding a town hall meeting on Monday, February 22, from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Palmer Events Center.

We need to show support for investment in renewables and energy efficiency that will bring new green jobs to Austin, and move us away from old dirty energy sources.

So do your homework by watching or listening to Austin at Issue, or visit www.cleanenergyforaustin.org, and come on out to the Mayor’s town hall on Monday. Look for the Public Citizen crew and stand with us to support Austin’s clean energy future!

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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I got at least one worried phone call this morning about an article in the Bay City Tribune claiming that

A resolution backing STP Units 3 & 4, possibly within the next few days, may be at least partly the outcome of a meeting Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald and Bay City Mayor Richard Knapik had with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro last Friday.

Whaaa–? The announcement seemed to be coming out of left field. After all the scandal and controversy of the last few months, a statement of support for STP expansion from San Antonio City Council is about the last thing I’d expect to see.  But before I had a chance to investigate, the intrepid Greg Harman of the San Antonio Current (who just this fall we gave an award to for “Best Environmental Journalist”) already had all the answers.

In a nutshell: rest easy my duckies, the Bay City Tribune’s announcement was just wishful thinking on the part of Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald (who is no fan of us, boy oh boy), Bay City Mayor Richard Knapik, and Mike Reddell, the author of the article in question.  From Harman himself,

No such resolution is on the horizon for San Antonio, where the proposed expansion has fallen into deep disfavor after CPS Energy officials sought to cover up escalating cost estimates. The closest thing matching Reddell’s statements would be an expected CPS Energy Board of Trustees vote on whether or not to continue in the construction of two new reactors with NRG Energy, at all. However, that vote was delayed yesterday.

Harman’s article is well worth reading for the rest of the story on the Tribune’s journalistic integrity. Crazy story there, check it out!

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Representatives from San Antonio’s CPS Energy and NRG Energy, their partner in the proposed South Texas Nuclear Project expansion, met this morning to try and reach a settlement on their $32 Billion lawsuit.  But CPS acting General Manager Jelynne LeBlanc-Burley apparently walked out of the meeting after learning that “neither Nuclear Innovation North America CEO Steve Winn nor NRG Energy CEO David Crane made the trip to San Antonio.

Update: Monday’s settlement meeting ended with no resolution. Cooperation fail.

Meanwhile, a new non-profit called the Ratepayer Protection Coalition announced its inception and intention to intervene in the CPS-NRG’s lawsuit.

Whaaaa? They can do that? Yes, according to attorney Karen Seal:

In Texas, citizen groups have the right to intervene in lawsuits like this if there is evidence of illegal activity like fraud and misrepresentation and if the behavior is expected to continue. We believe this to be the case. We hope to protect our interest as ratepayers, taxpayers and voters from continuing fraud and misrepresentation by all parties.

But why intervene? Orlando Gutierrez, president of the coalition, had the following to say:

Ratepayers are not represented in the legal proceedings between these parties, although they will bear the brunt of a bad settlement deal with higher electric bills.  There has been fraud and misrepresentation throughout this process. CPS withheld information and misled the public about the $4 billion cost increase throughout the series of eleven district meetings last year. Project partner NRG admits to misrepresenting costs for purposes of negotiation. Both partners deceived the City Council. Yet neither the Council, taxpayers, or voters have independent representation in the Court.

The Ratepayer Protection Coalition is seeking discovery information to “get to the truth” about the costs of the proposed reactors and available energy alternatives.

According to Greg Harman, reporter at the San Antonio Current:

CPS can’t represent the City of San Antonio, argues the Ratepayer Protection Coalition, a collection of familiar faces from the vindicated critics’ pool. Not only has CPS “conducted a campaign of misinformation, disinformation, and deception designed to convince the San Antonio community about the merits of pursuing nuclear power” but threatened the City Council “that a decision not to pursue the nuclear project would lead to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the project to date by CPS Energy.”

In short, CPS has “dirty hands” and can’t represent the City of San Antonio in court, according to RPC’s complaint filed this morning in the 37th District Court, joining the CPS-NRG lawsuit as an intervener.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Part 4. Sunny With a Chance of Economic Development: Solar Potential, the Solar Session that wasn’t, and City of Austin Solar Plant

Last spring, our minds were budding with thoughts of birds, bees, and… Texas’ solar potential (didn’t you know, a robust solar program would put Texans back to work and position the state as a world leader for solar production!) Ah, sweet romance.

First Public Citizen, Environment Texas and the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club hosted a statewide round of press conferences to roll out our solar report, Texas Solar Roadmap (though I’d really recommend the abridged version, Wildcatting the Sun). It seemed like every other legislator had some incarnation of a solar bill, and folks were wondering if this was going to be the solar session. We were (and remain) especially excited about the City of Austin’s potential to become the nation’s new clean energy hub, just like it was for the semiconductor industry — and almost like an answer to our prayers, within months the Austin City Council voted in favor of a 30MW solar plant in Webberville (though not without a little nerve-racking delay).

And of course, somewhere in that busy, busy time, we found time to make an awesome solar video for Environment Texas’ solar video contest:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Dfv2yoCtjU&feature=player_embedded]

Too bad we just couldn’t compare to Mic SoL-O and his sweet, sweet rhymes:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvAt_mjKdik]

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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