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Posts Tagged ‘san antonio current’

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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AUSTIN – Public Citizen Texas will be honoring the recipients of this year’s Texas Outstanding Public Service (TOPS) Awards at the organization’s 25th anniversary dinner today. The awardees are local visionaries, recognized experts and celebrated advocates who have aided in the effort to help Texas realize a more environmentally conscious and sustainable energy future.

Those receiving the TOPS Awards were chosen by Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen Texas, and his staff based on their accomplishments and contributions to the overall health, safety and democracy of all Texans. This year’s lineup of winners includes two journalists, three legislators, two activists, a whistleblower, a legislative aid and a man whose lifetime of achievement merits the finest award of all.

Winners of this year’s awards include Roger Duncan, general manager of Austin Energy, Austin American-Statesman reporter Claudia Grisales, San Antonio Current reporter Greg Harman, state Reps. Dave Swinford and Rafael Anchia, citizen activists Gerry Sansing and Dr. Wes Stafford, state Sen. Wendy Davis, whistleblower Glenn Lewis and state legislative staffer Doug Lewin.

Duncan will receive this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Duncan is a true visionary who has not only blueprinted the greening of the Austin City Council but also of the city’s public utility. He successfully transformed Austin Energy and set standards for the rest of the nation. He has been a major player in the fight for green issues for more than three decades – starting with his journey as a student activist in the 1970s, serving two terms as a member of the Austin City Council in the 1980s and eventually leading the city’s environmental department for nine years as the assistant director. Duncan is considered the architect of several of Austin’s nationally acclaimed energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, including GreenChoice and the Green Building Program. Furthermore, under Duncan’s leadership, Austin Energy adopted ambitious goals to bring more solar energy to Austin, committing to the development of major solar generating capacity. Duncan was also one of a few people to realize early on that the city of Austin had the potential to reduce urban air pollution by using plug-in hybrids. He assembled a coalition of potential buyers of plug-ins in the country and implemented a program at Austin Energy that offered an incentive package for such hybrids. Although he has announced his planned retirement for next year, it will not be surprising to see him in some sort of leadership role in the city in the near future.

In a quote from Duncan published in the Austin Chronicle last month, he said, “Today, it is time for me to return to my original role as an involved citizen of Austin.” Public Citizen Texas welcomes him as such (more…)

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With just two days before San Antonio City Council was to vote to approve $400 million in bonds to move forward with the South Texas Nuclear Project two reactor expansion, officials announced yesterday that the cost estimate for the project had ballooned by up to $4 BILLION.  That means that the new price tag on the new reactors, up from $13 Billion, is now a whopping $17 Billion (and don’t forget that even $13 Billion was a big jump from the original cost estimate of $5.4 Billion).  As a result, the Council has postponed the vote until January.

This is a huge victory for environmentalists, social justice workers, and citizen activists who have been tirelessly organizing opposition to new nuclear reactors.  If these concerned citizens hadn’t gotten involved, the City Council would have voted to approve the bonds a month ago, with no option to renegotiate their contract or pricing.  Because citizens got educated and involved, City Council was forced to delay the vote until they had all the information.  And the information, as it turns out, is that the cost estimates that groups like Public Citizen and SEED Coalition have been predicting for more than a year (up to $17.5 Billion according to a 2008 study by Arjun Makhijani and as much as $22 Billion according to analyst Clarence Johnson), far from a Cassandra cry, have been right on the money all along.

For all the dirty details, be sure to read the San Antonio Express-News’ breaking article Nuclear cost estimate rises by as much as $4 billion and the San Antonio Current’s blog post Nuke Collider: San Antonio delays $400 million nuke bond vote over Toshiba cost surge.  And courtesy of the unstoppable Greg Harman at the Current, check out the following video from the emergency press conference CPS officials and the Mayor’s office held yesterday, a MUST WATCH:

What I find most interesting about this whole mess is that CPS insiders knew a week and a half ago that the costs were up by $4 Billion, but neglected to tell the Mayor or City Council until yesterday.  And even then, it didn’t come as a formal announcement — the cat was only let out of the bag because, as the Express-News reports, an aide of the Mayor confronted CPS about rumors of a cost increase.

CPS interim General Manager Steve Bartley said the utility’s main contractor on the project, Toshiba Inc., informed officials that the cost of the reactors would be “substantially greater” than CPS’ estimate of $13 billion, which includes financing.

He said utility officials found out about the increase “within the last week and a half or so.”

But the mayor said he only learned the news Monday night after an aide asked Bartley about rumors of a cost estimate increase.

Castro said he didn’t know whether CPS would have divulged the increase to the council before its vote Thursday had his aide not directly questioned utility management.

“One would hope otherwise, but the evidence seems to suggest that they were less than proactive,” he said.

Sounds like CPS was going to wait until after Thursday’s vote to share their special need-to-know information, and that if it weren’t for those meddling kids they would have gotten away with it too.

Any way you look at it, yesterday’s announcement is fortuitous for the City of San Antonio.  Now City Council has a better idea of the real costs they are looking at with the project, and hopefully will think twice about placing their trust in CPS Energy now that they’ve been burned by the utility’s untransparent business practices.  With two months time until the vote, City Council now has plenty of time to order an independent study to model various energy scenarios and present a slew of options (besides just “nuclear or nothing”) for San Antonio’s energy future — including a heavy mix of renewable energy and efficiency. An outside study to model alternatives would present City Council with the most cost-effective, least risky, most environmentally sustainable plan possible. CPS claims to have done a ‘thorough’ investigation of these options, but just as they conveniently underestimated the cost of nuclear, they have overestimated the cost of renewable energies such as wind, solar, storage, and energy efficiency to the point of absurdity.  With two months to work at it, there is no reason why San Antonio shouldn’t have a green plan to put up against the nuclear plan by January.  They nearly voted to approve the project this week without the full range of information.  San Antonio City Council can’t put themselves in that situation again.

But don’t take my word for it.  Check out the following statements from Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office and Karen Hadden, director of the SEED Coalition:

Cost Increase of South Texas Project Shows Nuclear Power Is Too Expensive, Too Risky

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

We can’t think of any good reasons for the San Antonio City Council to continue with this project when there are far less expensive alternatives readily available. Investing in wind and solar makes much more sense and carries none of the risks – both the extreme financial risk that CPS wants taxpayers to bear and the health and safety risks inherent with nuclear power. If the City Council continues with this project, the average ratepayers will see their utility bills increase by 50 percent.

If San Antonio citizens hadn’t stepped to the plate, the City Council would have voted for the STP a month ago and the city would have been another $400 million in the hole with no option to renegotiate. But citizens got educated and got involved. Their involvement made the City Council delay the vote until they had all the information.

We know the San Antonio City Council is too smart to continue to support this boondoggle. Nuclear power is too expensive and too risky to use. It’s time for the San Antonio City Council to pull the plug on the STP expansion.

Statement of Karen Hadden, executive director, Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition:

We aren’t surprised to hear that the latest cost estimate for the South Texas Project puts the price to build two new nuclear reactors at $17 billion, $4 billion more than what CPS Energy said in June and more than three times the project’s original $5.4 billion price tag. We’ve been saying for two years that CPS has been feeding the public lowball estimates that wouldn’t hold up to reality.

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Let the news storm begin.  For those thirsting for more information on the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a few recommendations:

Watch Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, weigh in on Democracy Now! — Environmental Groups See Divide over Landmark Climate, Energy Bill Weakened by Industry Lobbying

Greg Harman at the San Antonio Current takes Charlie Gonzalez to task for his efforts to weaken ACES (look for a cameo quote from our very own Andy Wilson, Global Warming Program Director here at the Texas office — Gonzalez bombs climate change bill

The Washington Post’s business column op-ed: Climate-Change Bill Hits Some of the Right Notes but Botches the Refrain

The Economist breaks down the Handouts and loopholes

And to close out, words from the President:

I commend Chairman Waxman and the Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee for a successful effort to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill out of their committee today. We are now one step closer to delivering on the promise of a new clean energy economy that will make America less dependent on foreign oil, crack down on polluters, and create millions of new jobs all across America. The bill is historic for what it achieves, providing clean energy incentives that encourage innovation while recognizing the concerns of sensitive industries and regions in this country. And this achievement is all the more historic for bringing together many who have in the past opposed a common effort, from labor unions to corporate CEOs, and environmentalists to energy companies. I applaud the committee for its action and look forward to signing comprehensive legislation.

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Kudos and many thanks to San Antonio’s outgoing Mayor Hardberger and council members Justin Rodriguez, Jennifer Ramos, Lourdes Galvan, and Phillip Cortez for signing on to a letter urging Congressman Charlie Gonzalez to get with the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act program.

The letter reads:

We have an unprecedented opportunity to put San Antonians to work in new green jobs — building wind turbines, installing solar panels, weatherizing homes, and laying a smarter electric grid that will power our new energy economy.  We also believe it is of the utmost important that we rescue our children, our grandchildren, and the world they’ll inherit from the ravages of global warming.

According to Greg Harman at the San Antonio Current’s QueQue blog,

The cadre adds the weight of local elected leadership to an ongoing campaign working to ensure San Antonio’s representative in Congress (serving on the influential House Committee on Energy & Commerce) pushes for binding commitments to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions quickly while transitioning the economy into a more sustainable direction.

Hopefully Charlie is feeling the pressure and will back away from the polluter giveaways he’s been flirting with as of late.  That’s because, everybody with me now, Giving Away Allowances is a Terrible Way to Write This Bill.  EPA’s most recent analysis says that giving away pollution credits is “highly regressive”, meaning it hurts low-income families the most. At best, this is a bailout and a free ride for the polluters. At worst it will create windfall profits for huge energy companies at the expense of every lower and middle income family in Texas.

Just listen to that broken record spin. No shame here, I’ll say it as many times as it takes for it sink in.

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king-williams-parade-pics-048

photo courtesy of Karen Hadden & SEED Coalition

Our ambush of U.S. Congressman Charlie Gonzalez at the King William’s Fair in San Antonio this weekend was both a blast and a great success.

If you couldn’t make it out, never fear — Greg Harman at the San Antonio Current did, and just posted a great blog post with full coverage from the parade.  Be sure to check out the video, featuring our very own Sarah McDonald, ReEnergize Texas’ Patrick Meaney, and cameos from a whole host of Public Citizen, ReEnergize Texas, and SEED Coalition staff and volunteers.

More good news from the Curblog is that Charlie Gonzalez is still listening to both sides of the auction-or-free-allowances debate, Bloomberg article to the contrary.

Harman reports,

Ginette Magaña, a spokesperson for Rep. Gonzalez, said her boss had not committed to either side on the matter of carbon credits.

Not only that, but no letter exists as reported in the Bloomberg article, she insisted.

“There is no letter,” Magaña said. “He’s still looking at the bill and trying to find the best decision. I don’t have anything other than that right now … Charlie had never signed on to that letter … There is no letter.”

Things are certainly looking up.  Check out this diary from Trevor Lovell of ReEnergize Texas fame for another perspective on the parade:

Sorry Charlie, Giveaways Aren’t Green

“This feels like one of the good old campaigns,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Executive Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, Saturday afternoon in reference to activists swarming Congressman Charlie Gonzalez’s carriage in the King William Parade that morning in San Antonio.

Smitty may have been showing his age a bit (he’s directed Public Citizen’s Texas office for the last 25 years, and become a local legend and then some in the process), but the sentiments were positive among organizers young and old alike.

Congressman Charlie Gonzalez is the key swing vote on a subcommittee considering the Waxman-Markey bill.  A conservative Democrat, Gonzalez has joined a misguided throng calling for CO2 credits to be given away, a solution deemed unacceptable by environmentalists and economists who point out that such a system would create unfair profits for polluters and cripple any attempt at CO2 real reductions.

Learning late Thursday that Congressman Gonzalez would be in the King William Parade, a Fiesta celebration for the well-to-do and well-connected King William neighborhood of San Antonio, activists at Public Citizen, SEED Coalition, and my group, the ReEnergize Texas student coalition, got together and planned a full scale outreach and publicity action to let the Congressman know that giveaways are unacceptable. (more…)

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Greg Harman at the San Antonio Current broke this story a few days back and I just feel like we have to comment:

As Washington strains under the weight of industry and environmental lobbyists seeking to influence the outcome of what would be our first national climate bill, CPS Energy has been quietly working the angles on Capitol Hill to keep the coal power the city has come to rely on cheap for consumers in the short term. So-called “cheap” power is the mandate the utility operates under, after all.

Too bad that mandate is now at odds with the survival of the earth as we know it and, quite possibly, our survival as a city and a nation.

Responding to an Open Records request submitted by the Current, a CPS Energy legal staffer wrote that the City-owned utility has spent $91,700 lobbying in the past year “in the attempt to influence U.S. climate policy.”

According to Zandra Pulis, senior legal counsel at CPS, the utility has also spent about $67,657 in membership dues to the Climate Policy Group, an industry group it joined in September of 2006 that lobbies Congress against limiting carbon emissions under cap-and-trade legislation. An effort that, to this point, has been remarkably successful.

All told, CPS has spent $2.56 million on lobbyists (since 1999) working the statehouse and the Capitol, according to Pulis.

That’s right — CPS has spent millions of YOUR dollars on lobbying, much of which has gone to try to argue climate change isn’t happening.

Look, I understand that CPS has a mission to produce inexpensive electricity for San Antonio residents and business.  That’s a good thing.  But the facts are these:

1- Climate change is happening.  But even if it wasn’t, everything we need to do to solve it is something that we would want to be to doing anyway.  We need to start living with the fact that political consensus has developed in Washington.  Sooner or later, we’re going to have to  start paying for our greenhouse gas pollution, so we’d better start figuring out how to get our energy from non-polluting sources. (more…)

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Here are some interesting articles I’ve read this week, which I think are well worth reading in full.

recommended-readingTexas is taking a greater interest in global warming by Randy Lee Loftis at the Dallas Morning News

The Fight Plan for Clean Air by Kate Galbraith and Felicity Barringer, New York Times (word on the street that EPA will declare heat-trapping gases dangerous pollutants, keep your fingers crossed)

Solar’s time to shine in Texas? by Bill Dawson at Texas Climate News

The Fresh Prince of Clean Air: Prince Charles says financial crisis is ‘nothing’ compared to climate change, at Grist

Last chance for a slow dance? All the world fiddles as we near global warming’s point of no return by Greg Harman at the San Antonio Current — digg it up

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coverI’m embarrassed.

Greg Harman at the San Antonio Current beat me to covering my own press conference.  And he did a way better job than I ever could have done.

The only explanation is that Greg Harman is Superman.  Or, that I am one very busy media coordinator who needs to re-align her priorities (from now on, the internet wins!).

I’m so ashamed, it doesn’t even seem worth it to write anything myself.

Save me the effort, and go to his post at the San Antonio Current Queblog.  Read about how within the span of two weeks, SA’s CPS Energy pledged to transition to a decentralized power model (ie, energy created on site rather than at a power plant).  Learn how last Thursday, Mayor Hardberger unveiled his visionary Mission Verde Plan to make San Antonio a truly sustainable city.  Proceed to Harman’s excitement over the sea change at the Legislature, such that fully 15 solar bills have been filed this session.

And then check out his fantastic video, photos, and audio clips.  It almost feels like you were there!  Watch our very own David Power, solar advocate, announce how the solar industry can provide Texas’ next big job boom!  Smile as Bill Sinkin and his bow tie refer to solar energy as a full grown child no longer in need of coddling, but still looking for our support.  And listen to County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson trumpet that Texas has reached a critical mass and perfect storm for extensive solar power in the state of Texas to finally become a reality.

Hey hey, looks like I can steal his video from youtube.  I LOVE THE INTERNET.

You should still go to his post though, because it is wicked awesome and I can’t steal his audio clips.  Or rather, don’t know how.

Also check out the San Antonio Express-New’s coverage: Nonprofits say boosting solar capability in Texas could create jobs. We don’t “say” so, we know so.

Ten “cool” points if you caught the Real Ultimate Power reference.  And by cool, I mean totally sweet.

Check out our official press release after the jump. (more…)

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