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Posts Tagged ‘texas vox’

Busy, busy, busy. Public Citizen staff have been making the rounds this week, traveling all over Texas in order to educate, empower, and organize citizens. From Beaumont to Dallas. From tar sands to the Public Utility Commission, we are working to protect the economic and environmental well-being of all Texans.

The Week in Review: (more…)

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What is happening? Black blood continues to ooze, pump, and explode into the Gulf. B.P., the Coast Guard, and the U.S. military are powerless to stop its wave of utter, incomprehensible destruction. Bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill. 100,000 or 200,000 or 500,000 gallons a day for going-on three weeks; an amount we will never be able to imagine. Canyons of crude death. Generations of flora, fauna, and ecosystems erased. Gone. For good.

And everybody shrugs their shoulders and talks about the costs. Everybody asks, “what was the cause?”

Does it take an engineer to explain why sucking the marrow out of the earth is a deadly process?

Now, today, a tanker truck exploded at a San Antonio refinery loading dock. Firefighters are struggling to control the blaze, spending most of their efforts to prevent the fire from spreading to the jet fuel and diesel storage facilities. Fire Chief Charles Hood does not sound optimistic.

The coal mine explosion in West Virginia. The coal carrier crash at the Great Barrier Reef. The burst pipeline in the Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge. The BP platform explosion and leak – the most devastating fossil fuel catastrophe in decades, perhaps ever. The TVA Kingston slurry damn failure just over a year ago in Tennessee (one of the worst disasters in history). The dozens of other “minor” accidents involving the harvesting of coal, oil, and natural gas.  And, now, today, here in Texas, the latest explosion in humanity’s mad pursuit of 19th century fuel.

What does it all mean? Why do these things keep happening? What are YOU going to do about it?

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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: Greg Harman at the San Antonio Current just published a fantastic and very thorough recap of the twisted nuclear saga. Check it out!

Here’s part 2 in this year’s first annual Year in Review: Top Texas Vox Stories of 2009 series. Part 1 is just a hop, skip and scroll down.

3. San Antonio Nuclear Debacle/Amores Nucleares Telenovela

This year has been a doozy for nuclear power, with the highlight of course being the San Antonio situation.  Over the last 12 months San Antonio has ridden a wild wave of cost estimates, community meetings, protests, scandals, and misinformation.  But I’m getting ahead of myself. Remember when…

Last January, CPS Energy committed to spend $60 million more on the proposed expansion of the South Texas Nuclear Project, a decision which at that point brings the city utility’s total expenditures on units 3 & 4 to $267 million. Not long after that, Austin City Council took a look at participating in the expansion project but said “No way, that’s much too risky of an investment for us.” San Antonio decided that something magical (but mysterious) was different for them, despite our prediction in late April that the proposed reactors could actually cost as much as $22 Billion.  Mum was CPS’ word on a cost estimate at that time, but by June they announced that $13 Billion was a good, round number. We worried at this point that CPS was being overly optimistic, ignoring the history of the South Texas Project and other nukes around the nation and independent reports, but those concerns largely fell on deaf ears.

Then over the summer, CPS Energy launched a massive public outreach campaign, with meetings in every district — but kind of botched it.  Despite activists’ protests that CPS’ cost numbers were innacurate, the utiltiy refused to release their information or back up numbers, and many San Antonio citizens left the community meetings feeling disenchanted with the process and suspicious of CPS.

As a rising tide of activists and concerned citizens grew, eventually they formed the coalition group Energía Mía and worked together to halt CPS’ spending for more nuclear reactors. The group launched a string of protests and press conferences highlighting the many flaws of nuclear power and the San Antonio deal in particular.  Everyone was all geared up for a big showdown the last week in October, but then the cowpie really hit the rotating bladed device (let’s call it a windmill). For the next part, I’m going to pull from a previous post where I likened the whole situation to a geeky, policy version of a telenovela.

Previously, on Amores Nucleares:

With just days before San Antonio City Council was to vote to approve $400 million in bonds for new nuclear reactors, it was leaked that the project could actually cost $4 Billion more than CPS had been saying all summer (according to Toshiba, who would actually be building the plant). The vote was postponed, there was an impromptu press conference, and it came out that CPS staff had actually known about the cost increase for more than a week — Oops! Oh, and the “leak” wasn’t that CPS came out with the truth, an aide from the mayor’s office only found out after confronting CPS about a rumor he’d heard. But how did the mayor’s office find out? NRG, CPS’ partner in the project was the “Deepthroat”, because they were going to announce Toshiba’s $17 Billion cost estimate at a shareholder’s meeting soon after the city council vote and thought, geez, that could look really bad for CPS! Meanwhile, CPS reps flew to Japan in a hurry to figure things out. Steve Bartley, interim GM for CPS, resigned. Furious that CPS had hidden the ugly truth from City Council, the mayor demanded the resignation of two key CPS board members, and got City Council to vote unanimously that they get the boot. Chairwoman Aurora Geis agreed to go, but Steve Hennigan said “No Way, Jose.” THEN CPS completed an internal audit of the whole shebang to figure out what-the-hell-happened, which found that Steve Bartley was to blame, and everyone else was only guilty of failure in their “responsibility of prompt disclosure”. Then it came out the project could be even more way way expensive than anyone thought (except of course Energia Mia, Public Citizen, SEED Coalition, the Center for American Progress, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and analysts Arjun Makhijani, Clarence Johnson, Craig Severance, and Mark Cooper to name a few). And then those crazy cats all started suing each other.

So in the end, they told folks all summer long that the plant would cost $13 Billion, even though insiders knew since late June that it could very well be $4 Billion more. Latest update is that the plant could really cost $18.2 Billion! On December 31st, Toshiba provided CPS with another new estimate, which the utility will use to come up with their own new cost estimate mid-January. City council is slated to vote sometime after that, once and for all, on $400 million in bonds to continue the project.

But clearly, enough is enough. So if you live in San Antonio, tell City Council to stop throwing good money after bad, and to cut their losses before its too late. Tell them to vote “no” to nuclear bonds and start the year off fresh and free from the “ghost of nuclear projects past.”

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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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Now that the ball’s dropped, toasts made, fireworks popped and black eyed peas consumed, we’re feeling reflective today.  Faced with that eternally annual question, “Should Auld Aquaintance Be Forgot?“, I’m moved to such mental poetry as “Heck no, this year was too much fun!”

We’ve had a hell of a year here at Texas Vox.  In such a short span we’ve gone from a humble policy blog, primarily read internally and by our own interns, to stake our claim as a top climate and energy blog in the state, with a national and even international reach.  And you, dear citizen-readers, are not the only ones to take notice: from responses we’ve received over the year it is clear that we’re also on the radar of agency commissioners, legislators, city council members and even the office of the governor.  Not too shabby for 12 month’s time, and an exciting place to be as we enter a new decade and crucial political time.

So here’s the first segment of our “Year in Review” series: the Top Texas Vox Stories of 2009.

1. Energy Citizens

Remember when, way back in August, your intrepid friends at Texas Vox boogied down to Houston to crash the American Petroleum Institute’s astroturf “Energy Citizens” rally?  This was the first of several rallies across the nation that API staged to make it look like there was a strong, ground-up movement against a federal climate change bill.  But it turned out that the event was more of a company picnic than a grassroots campaign; they blocked our entry and wouldn’t even let in the “real” anti-cap and trade grassroots, as organized by folks like Freedomworks — no American flags either! But never fear, your own Citizen Sarah was able to sneak past their burly guards and interview a few of these so-called Energy Citizens — who we found out say the darndest things (like that they don’t really know much of anything about the climate and energy bill and are there because or their employers)!

API’s antics didn’t end in Houston, either — in North Carolina, they even locked out the state representative of the district where the rally was held! After a few more rallies, it quickly became clear that on top of being funded by the American Petroleum Institute and stocked with energy company employees, the majority of them were also organized by oil-industry lobbyists. But by that point, no one was buying API’s story anymore.  Way to bust ’em, Netroots!

2. The 2009 81st Legislative Session

Activists had high hopes for the 2009 81st Legislative Session.  With the new Obama administration, fear of pending federal climate legislation, and a new Speaker of the House to break the Craddickocracy, it seemed almost certain that good bills would pass to move Texas closer to a clean energy future.

Two weeks into the session, Public Citizen Texas’ legislative package (which included such lofty goals as significant climate change legislation, a major update of state energy efficiency programs, a non-wind renewable portfolio standard (RPS), and a bill to create incentives for solar power) was in the best shape it had ever been, and the session looked to be one of the most productive in history.  At this point, all of the bills Public Citizen’s Texas office supported had made it out of committee, been passed by either one chamber or the other, and had made it out of Calendars committee and were scheduled for debate.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of our legislation was calendared behind an incredibly contentious Voter ID bill which would have required Texas voters to present a valid driver’s license to vote.  In order to block this bill, House Democrats adopted the “chubbing” tactic — talking bills to death — to avoid getting far enough down the bill list to have to vote on the Voter ID bill.

This stalling technique cut five days from the end of the session deadline and killed a tragically long laundry list of bills that were scheduled after Voter ID.  As an example, SB 16, an omnibus air quality bill which would have provided funding for TERP, plug-in hybrids, and a diesel emissions reduction plan, was directly after Voter ID on Calendars.  Our solar incentives bill was also on the same page, and the non-wind RPS bill was scheduled to be discussed the following day.  It was a very disheartening end to an otherwise shining legislative session — kind of like a great interception and full field run that ended in a trip just shy of the 1 yard line.

But there were still some great victories in there. These major wins included:

  • Funding for the Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP) for areas in non-attainment status of the federal Clean Air Act (CHB 1796)
  • A carbon dioxide registry to address the state’s contribution to global warming (CHB 1796)
  • A “green fee” bill allowing the governing board of public colleges and universities to institute an environmental service fee (once approved by student body election)
  • A bill to create municipal solar districts that would allow local governments to provide low-cost loans to consumers to install solar on roofs (HB 1937)
  • A “no regrets” strategy for greenhouse gas reduction in the state.  This bill will require the State Comptroller to examine the state’s energy use in order to find ways to reduce our emissions and save money at the same time (SB 184)
  • A green fleets bill to promote low emissions and plug-in hybrid vehicles for fleets of major state agencies (HB 432)

For the full text, all-green-groups wrap-up number, read the press release Texas Legislature Advances Clean Power and Green Jobs, but Loses Steam in Political Wranglings.

Check back with us tomorrow for more fun stories from 2009!

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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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round upThe Texas Progressive Alliance celebrates the start of early voting for the 2009 elections with its always on time weekly blog roundup.

Human tragedies are mounting in the Barnett Shale as study after study shows high levels of toxins in the air. The only ones who can’t seem to find anything wrong are the regulators. TXsharon asks, “Will the EPA intervene in Texas?” at Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

Why did the US forcibly detain a Mexican human rights advocate? CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to know.

Bay Area Houston says Tort Reformers in Texas suck.

The Texas Cloverleaf presents the Kay Coward Bailey Hutchison plan for health care mediocrity.

Off the Kuff takes a look at Cameron Todd Willingham’s supposed confession, and finds the evidence for it lacking.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson states that no matter what you hear Transportation schemes are continuing, despite “death” of the TTC. EOW also had a guest post this week on the PEC, Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC): Who’s Electing Your Board Representative?.

“Other big names” may enter the Republican primary for governor if Perry and Hutchison can’t get their acts together, according to a right-wing talker in D-FW and passed along by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

WhosPlayin posted an update on gas drilling in Lewisville, and also breaks the story that a local group is looking to ban smoking in public places in Lewisville.

refinish69 reopens Doing My Part For The Left with the latest installment of his series Homesless in Austin-An Insider’s View Part 7.

Mean Rachel got to see President Obama speak in College Station on Friday.

We have known for a long time that Governor Perry is a bottom feeder, but letting an innocent man die and then refusing to get at the truth about his execution? Well, I would not want that on my conscience. Let Libby Shaw bring you up to speed in his posting, All the Good Hair on the Planet Won’t Make the Cover Up Go Away.

Neil at Texas Liberal ran a picture he took this week of the confluence on White Oak Bayou and Buffalo Bayou in Downtown Houston. This spot, important in the founding of Houston, is still a place of connection. If connection could be found in the hot and Hell-like Houston of 175 years ago, we can find connection even in tough circumstances.

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bad-300-250It is blog action day! In case you don’t know, on this day, 15th of October of every year, bloggers from all over the world unite in writing about a common important issue. It started in 2007 by Collis & Cyan Ta’eed. Their first year, they recruited as many as 20,000 bloggers to write about the same issue which was the Environment for that year. It was a great success.

If you are a blogger and don’t think that you can’t be heard, you are mistaken. This year, we are united in writing about Climate Change. Don’t have qualms about it. If you don’t know much about the issue, it is 2009 and researching on google is more than easy.

So, get off the couch, log in to your blog and make you voice be heard, or read. Some of the participants of Blog Action Day are entities such as Google, Huffington Post, and Think Progress

Here are also a couple of local blogs that have to contributed “something to make this world a better place for the generations to come” as nicely put Dixie’s  French Lique.

Coffee Muses:

Living in the deep south of the United States on the coastal plain of Texas just a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico, keeps you watching the weather with a more than casual eye. Changes in weather patterns, whether natural or manmade, can and will have devastating consequences. As last year showed in the southeastern US and this year has shown in southern Texas, shifts in rainfall patterns cause rapid loss of crops and livestock. The economic and social disruption these losses cause, trickle throughout the economy.

…Many people seem to believe that the whole climate change crisis is a hoax. The science is said to be fixed. It’s a conspiracy to allow for environmental regulations. My only answer is to invite them to move to the Gulf Coast. Try living in a hurricane target. Live through the increasingly more powerful threats each year as the Gulf of Mexico and the tropical Atlantic store more and more heat energy…Heat energy that is converted into the very storms that pound these shores. The Katrina’s, the Rita’s, the Ike’s…All of these storms in just a few years have added to greater and greater damages spread over a very wide portion of the Deep South. Add in the fact that this is the very same area where most of the country’s refining capacity is located and you have an additional threat.

Texas Clover Leaf:

Just like in World War II, we are in a fight. We need to stop pollution and greenhouse gases. And you need to do your part to sacrifice some of your lifestyle for the greater good. We are not saying up and turn completely Vegan and only ride a bike (although that is an option!). But making small changes help when hundreds or thousands of other people just like you make those same small changes.

this is life in austin:

Global Warming Wrecks All the Fun

Say Goodbye to French Wines

Wacky temperatures and rain cycles brought on by global warming are threatening something very important: Wine. Scientists believe global warming will “shift viticultural regions toward the poles, cooler coastal zones and higher elevations.” What that means in regular language: Get ready to say bye-bye to French Bordeaux and hello to British champagne. [LA Times]

Only In It For The Gold:

It’s Blog Action Day for climate change all around the blogosphere!

Of course it’s always Blog Action Day for climate change around here, so it’s easy for me to participate. Newcomers, please just look at the “best of” links over to the right.

Regulars, it would be a good idea to look around and see if any of the participants have anything new and useful to add.

To learn more about the Blog Action Day, visit the official website by clicking here.

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BOA_2009Dear readers, the Austin Chronicle’s yearly “Best Of Austin” voting ends tomorrow.  If you haven’t filled out a ballot yet, you should!  There are all kinds of categories that your friends here at Public Citizen’s Texas Vox could fit into… Local Blog/ger, Local Politics Blog/ger, Nonprofit/Activist Group, Environmentalist.

Don’t make us beg. Vote today!

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Check it out!  Texas Vox is now a proud member of the Texas Progressive Alliance, a group of bloggers, blogs, and Netroots activists.  We demand to be taken seriously (and occasionally dance around to The Final Countdown with knives in our teeth).

Alliance photo

Our membership also means that you can look forward to Weekly Round-Up of tasty posts from Alliance members.  Here’s round one:

The city of DISH, TX is one of several municipalities that have already adopted a resolution calling for the repeal of Big Oil’s exemption to the Safe Drinking Water Act. TXsharon gives DISH a high-five and hopes your group, organization, club, city or county will do the same, at at Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is glad the internets have Texas Progressive Alliance! The Republicans have their house of cards and a crazy base.

BossKitty at TruthHugger sees danger in the watered down, dumbed down attempt to educate students by committee. Sanitized History, Truth or Consequences is an example of why education needs serious attention.

Houston political reporter Jane Ely passed away this week. PDiddie collected some recollections of her life at Brains and Eggs.

WhosPlayin was totally absorbed in the municipal elections in Lewisville, and was glad to see conservative radio talk host Winston Edmondson soundly defeated by 30 points in his bid to turn Lewisville into the next Farmers Branch.

Is it a good idea to give TXDOT it’s own taxpayer funded investment bank? Yeah, McBlogger doesn’t think so, either.

Over at TexasKaos, lightseeker thinks it is time to reconsider moral absolutism in politics. He talks about how Obama made progress on this issue nationally and how his tatics may apply in Texas. Check out his posting: Moral Absolutism and Politics – What Obama’s Victory Has to Say to Texas Progressives

Off the Kuff takes a look at the latest polls in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson has a wrap-up of the action taken on the TxDOT Sunset bill in the House last week, CDA/PPPís kicked to House Transportation Committee.

Neil at Texas Liberal writes that using Twitter in politics may well have the effect of further isolating a narrow elite from the larger mass of folks.

Vince at Capitol Annex discusses the rightwing’s email lobbying campaign against legislation that would have subjected the State Board of Education to Sunset review provisions.

Teddy (aka LiberalTexan) at Left of College Station was back after a month long hiatus and blogging as one of the newest members of the Texas Progressive Alliance. This week Left of College Station covered the Bryan City Council Election (despite being uncontested), and the College Station City Council election campaign for Place 4 and Place 6.

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A-list on Austin360.com is having a poll entitled: Which local blog is best?

Somehow we didn’t show up on their radar.  Don’t worry, our feelings aren’t hurt — we know we’re still pretty new.  Please give us a hand and go to their site and write us in! We’d be so honored to be a contender.

Voting ends Tuesday, the 17th (tomorrow) at 11 p.m. You can vote once every hour, as many times as you want. Show your love and help us hype Texas Vox!

UPDATE: email your vote in directly to: austin360contests[email protected]

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flickr-logoTo prevent Texas Vox from being flooded by pictures of all the cool stuff we’re up to, Public Citizen Texas has created a photostream on Flickr.  Check it out.  We’ll keep you updated as we make new additions.

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austin-skyline-bannerAs expected, the Austin City Council made the decision to delay the vote on Austin Energy’s proposed solar plant until March 5th.  Council Member Mike Martinez wanted to put it off longer, but since the bid for the plant will actually expire just seven days after this March meeting, the council agreed unanimously to have the final vote in three weeks time.

The foremost explanation for this delay was to give more time for the public participation process… though I think it is important to note that the “public” we’re referring to here is chiefly the city’s largest industrial rate-payers.  The general Austin public has already shown its colors on this issue.  According to recent surveys conducted by Austin Energy (and presented yesterday morning by Roger Duncan, general manager of the utility), Austinites want much more solar.  At 30 MW, the proposed solar plant would be the largest utility-scale photovoltaic array in the nation, and the 6th biggest solar plant in the world.  From where I’m sitting, that looks like just what the doctor ordered.

Large-scale users are up in arms because, since they use so much more energy, they think they’re going to be particularly hard hit by any slight rate increase.  Due to information that surfaced during this meeting, I am inclined not to feel terribly sorry for these folks.  If you’ll just stick with me here, everything will be illuminated.  I promise it’ll be good.

The council had already decided to delay the vote before they even entered the chamber, but listened to presentations and public comment anyway.  First on the agenda was Roger Duncan, general manager of Austin Energy.

Roger started out by laying out the basics of the proposed solar plant and how it would fit in with the City’s strategic energy plan.  The City plans to get 100 MW of its power from solar energy by 2020.  The first goal in this process was to install 15 MW of solar power by 2007.  We missed that stepping stone — Roger said we currently have 1.5 MW of solar installed on rooftops throughout Austin.  The next goal in line is to get 30 MW by 2010.  If the proposed project is approved, and built within the expected 18 months, Austin will be right on schedule to meet that goal. (more…)

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The real question is, will we at Texas Vox run out of holiday references before tomorrow or not?

christmas-future-1

Some scary, scary stuff out there in the past few days we wanted to show you, plus some extra holiday snark for all of you.

  • The EPA also released their list of Sooty Cities (and you thought soot was stuff from only back in the days of Charles Dickens!), and, of course, Houston made the list.  Merry Christmas, Houston!  You got… soot!  Also ending up on the list were my old home towns of Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah.
  • And finally, California is buying our cow gas.  Seriously.  Pacific Gas and Electric plans to buy a methane-based substitute for natural gas created right here in Texas from, of all things, cow manure.  Just shows you that one man’s treasure is another man’s… never mind.

~~Citizen Andy

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