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Posts Tagged ‘San Antonio’

This is Andy checking in from Vegas and Netroots Nation: sheesh, we leave Texas for a few days and the wheels start to come off the bus, don’t they?  Of course, our fearless and tireless leader, Tom “Smitty” Smith is there to handle everything, as he has done for the last 2 and a half decades.

This ran in today’s Texas Energy Report, but want to give all of our Public Citizen Texas members and followers a taste if you’re not a subscriber to the Energy Report.

Tom Smitty Smith, Director of Public Citizen TexasSMITTY: TWO CITIES TOOK OPPOSITE PATHS IN SELECTING UTILITY GM

An Op-Ed by Public Citizen’s Tom “Smitty” Smith.

The recently announced new general managers for Austin and San Antonio couldn’t be more different, and may have huge economic repercussions for both cities.

Austin has chosen Larry Weis, a “green” general manager from Turlock, California, Irrigation District. San Antonio’s CPS Energy has chosen Doyle N. Beneby Jr., from Exelon Corp. While Mr. Weis opposes nuclear power due to its costs, Mr. Beneby comes from a utility that has the largest nuclear assets in the country.

The process that each city underwent in selecting their new managers stands in stark contrast with one another. Austin announced its finalists over a month ago and invited the public to question the candidates.

CPS kept its candidates secret. In light of this lack of information, I am left to wonder what San Antonio’s fate will be given the recent track record of Exelon. Could Mr. Beneby signal the re-nuclearization of San Antonio or does he represent a future of renewable energy and green power?

Although San Antonio is still reeling from the trebling of cost of expanding the South Texas Nuclear Project, the CPS board has chosen someone from Exelon, which has tried and failed to buy NRG Energy, CPS’s partner in the nuclear expansion project, while simultaneously trying to develop another nuclear plant near Victoria.

While Exelon does have a mix of fossil fuel, hydroelectric, solar, landfill gas and wind generation sources, it only amounts to a meager 7 percent of its generation assets. The other 93 percent is nuclear.

Since the public was not privy to the public utility’s selection process, we are left to speculate what Beneby ‘s plans are. (more…)

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PUBLIC CITIZEN’s TEXAS OFFICE is a

Public Citizen is an Earthshare of Texas MemberApril is Earthday, give at HEB to Earthshare

Celebrating Earthday in April, look for this tearpad at HEBs and give to Public Citizen’s Texas office through Earthshare

Public Citizen’s Texas office is pleased to announce that H-E-B has selected EarthShare of Texas to be the beneficiary of its in-store coupon promotion for April, in recognition of Earth Day. This means that customers can tear off and add check-out coupons worth $1, $3, or $5 to their total bill.

In November, H-E-B’s San Antonio region stores will feature EarthShare of Texas — giving H-E-B’s San Antonio customers the opportunity to support environmental work in the San Antonio area.

Look for the EarthShare of Texas display and tear-off coupons at the check-out stands in your local H-E-B and Central Market stores beginning in late March through April.  Help support Public Citizen, EarthShare of Texas and the Texas environment!

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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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The University of Texas at San Antonio and St. Philip’s College will both soon be getting solar arrays, thanks to the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) and federal stimulus programs.

UTSA will get a 52 kilowatts of generating capacity with its $1.3 million grant, and St. Phillip’s will receive a $2 million grant in order to install 400kW of solar capacity. These two projects will triple San Antonio’s solar capacity, save the schools millions in energy costs, and will serve as a laboratory for green jobs training and workforce development.

Says St. Phillips College President Dr. Williams Loston,

This grant represents a tremendous opportunity for St. Philip’s College.  It will produce energy for the college, and it will enhance our standing as an area leader in workforce education. Most importantly, we will engage our community in a component of our education.

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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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The National Wildlife Federation and the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club have created a splash with their latest report: Drop by Drop: 7 Ways Texas Cities Can Conserve Water.

Austin should be proud. Out of 19 cities studied in this report, our capital city was highly ranked on outdoor water ordinances and has an aggressive toilet replacement program. San Antonio has also set the bar high for effective and diverse water efficiency programs across the country. The cities surveyed were measured on: water pricing structure, water saving goals, toilet replacement, conservation funding, and outdoor watering. Though many cities and towns across the nation have made great strides to reduce water use, the report’s conclusion is that most cities are not doing as much as they could to efficiently use existing water supplies. (more…)

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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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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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Tonight San Antonio citizens will have a chance to weigh in on CPS Energy’s proposed rate hike. I have the following request from an activist in San Antonio:

Monday night CPS will be taking comments from the public on the proposed rate increase. This is short notice but we need a strong showing. We are at the end of a long struggle to have a major impact on how our energy company operates.

Please encourage your members to attend the meeting and give public comments at Villita Assembly Building, 401 Villita St at 6 p.m. on Monday, February 8, 2010.

Registration starts at 5 pm.

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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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A critical court ruling today rang the first chime in what could be the death knell of the so-called “nuclear renaissance,” starting with the failed expansion of the South Texas Project (STP).

This afternoon’s ruling by 408th District Court Judge Larry Noll that CPS Energy can safely withdraw from the proposed STP expansion project without losing all its investment offers the utility and the city of San Antonio the cue they’ve been waiting for to exit the national nuclear stage. Combined with the NRG Energy CEO’s announcement during a shareholder and press conference call this morning that NRG would “wind down the project as quickly and economically as possible” if CPS withdraws or STP does not receive federal loan guarantees, this news marks a major blow to those who claim nuclear power is a viable alternative to fossil fuel energy. The expansion project calls for two new nuclear reactors at a site with two existing reactors.

slide 8 of NRG's "STP 3&4 Nuclear Project and CPS Litigation" presentation given at shareholder and media conference call Friday, January 29, 2010 8:00 a.m. ET

These events give credence to the contention made over the past five years by opponents of nuclear power that it is a needlessly expensive and risky way to meet future energy needs.. In less than a year, the price of the STP nuclear expansion ballooned from around $5 billion to more than $18 billion. Given this case study of nuclear power’s failure, we must call into question the federal government’s decision to increase federal loan guarantees to support oversized, untenable projects that are already proving too risky for private investors.

Public Citizen calls on both CPS Energy and NRG Energy to stop throwing good money after bad with their nuclear expansion plans and halt the project. Thankfully, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro intervened by putting the project on hold before costs jumped too far out of San Antonio’s reach. Given the court’s announcement that the city’s interests are protected, we hope San Antonio will take the next responsible step and bow out entirely.

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

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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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Tuesday January 26th at 4:30p

Main Plaza (in front of City Hall) — Rally & Press Conference

Two national coalitions, the Energy Action Coalition (EAC) and the Center for Community Change (CCC) join with Southwest Workers Union and local grassroots organizations to call on Mayor Castro to take real steps towards reducing energy consumption and generating good, green jobs for the City. Wearing green hard hats, young leaders of organizations from North Dakota to Florida, Washington to Arizona support the fight against expansion of the South Texas Project, to phase out coal and dirty energy sources, to create a comprehensive free weatherization program for low-income families, to invest in solar energy and for a job creation programs in the green energy sector. (more…)

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San Antonians should be proud today, when Mayor Castro will dedicate the Mission Verde green jobs training center and demonstration lab at the former Cooper Middle School on the west side.

The center will bring together sustainability education and the City’s green jobs ambitions by teaching students weatherization techniques and offering on-the-job training.  The project will “provide jobs that lift up the neighborhood“, offer “a 21st-century education in one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Antonio” and will give a new lease on life to a previously abandoned school building.  The center’s centerpiece is a zero-energy, solar powered house that students at Texas A&M built modularly for the 2007 Solar Decathalon competition.

The Mission Verde Center is an exciting step towards San Antonio’s vision of decentralized, local power and an accessible, inclusive green economy strong enough to lift all boats. As Greg Harman, environmental reporter for the San Antonio Current, put it

Community green-power centers like the Cooper Center, when hitched to a soon-to-be established city program expected to allow all income levels to receive loans for solar power and energy efficiency upgrades — loans which can in turn be paid off through the energy savings realized by the homeowner — have the potential to forever change the way San Antonio is powered.

Projects like this represent, in my opinion, one of the most exciting aspects of the climate movement.  In our switch to a cleaner,greener America, we have the opportunity to simultaneously tackle job losses, social inequality, public health, and environmental degradation. Kudos to the city of San Antonio for taking steps to create an inclusive green economy that would make Dr. Martin Luther King proud.

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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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2 big upcoming events for the Texas Green Network:

January 21st — an inaugural San Antonio networking event, an introduction to San Antonio’s green business community

January 27th –  green tradeshow workshop & show featuring members of Texas Green Network (Austin)


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Two proposed nuclear reactors in Florida were put on hold this week after the Florida Public Service Commission denied the lion’s share of a rate increase necessary to fund the project’s construction. The utility Florida Power and Light (FPL) requested a record rate hike of $1.27 Billion, but was only granted a a $75.5 million base-rate increase. Stripped of their authority to make ratepayers bear the financial burden and risk of new reactors, FPL announced

it would halt $10 billion in projects, including plans to build two new nuclear reactors at the Turkey Point plant near Miami and upgrade two new generators.

If the economy improves, FPL can ask for a larger rate increase at a later date — but for the time being, this is a major victory for consumers and anti-nuclear advocates alike.  Florida has seen the folly of forcing citizens to pay large rate increases and bear the long-term burden for risky investments in nuclear power — let’s just hope that the San Antonio City Council comes to the same conclusion.  They’re set to vote on $400 million in bonds to continue their stake in two additional proposed reactors at the South Texas Nuclear Project facility later this month.

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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 of Public Citizen’s Texas Office

The latest interim charge of the state Senate Business and Commerce Committee provides a welcome opportunity for Texas to rein in rogue utilities like CPS Energy of San Antonio. Now tasked with studying the costs of municipally owned utilities’ generation plans and their impacts on residential and commercial customers, the Senate committee has the opportunity to protect Texans, especially low-income families, from the machinations of a utility bent on pleasing its industrial consumers at the cost of its most vulnerable customers.

CPS Energy is pursuing a risky investment in a nuclear expansion project that, depending on the final cost of the project, would raise rates between 36 percent and 60 percent over the next 10 years. The municipally owned utility has failed to adequately involve the citizenry and city government in its generation planning process. CPS Energy’s nuclear energy plan lacks any mechanism to protect consumers or low-income families, despite the fact that those customers would have to pick up the tab if the deal gets more expensive.

In comparison, the city of Austin’s generation planning process spanned two years and involved public input and roundtable stakeholder negotiations, leading to the development of special policies to protect low-income families from higher bills. Policies like built-in periodic reassessments of cost and feasibility will protect Austin residents and businesses from runaway energy costs that are so typical of large-scale nuclear construction projects. San Antonio residents need to see the same protections.

As Austin’s process clearly shows, CPS Energy can be much more inclusive and transparent. Public Citizen is grateful that the members of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee can step in and act as responsible figures in this process.

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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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On Wednesday, Rep. Lloyd Doggett announced that the city of Austin will receive $4.8 Million in stimulus funds to train 1,000 workers in energy efficiency and clean energy jobs.  Workers will be trained for jobs at solar plants in Austin, San Antonio and surrounding cities and states, and but the trainings will prepare participants for a variety of green jobs including solar installation.

As Doggett noted,

Green’s the word in Austin, and today greenbacks are on their way to further strengthen our commitment to clean energy. Green jobs have the ability to not only transform the way we do business, but re-power America; this training will provide workers with the nuts and bolts to construct a thriving clean energy economy right here in Central Texas.

This stimulus grant is part of a larger, $500 Million federal initiative to prepare and train workers for green jobs.

Sources: Austin American Statesman, Austin Business Journal

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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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