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Archive for January 25th, 2011

At yesterday’s board meeting, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative voted to review a recently passed bylaw that could disqualify one of its members from serving on the board.  Specifically, if the board applies this bylaw retroactively, it could disqualify Chris Perry from continuing his position on the board. 

Coop attorneys have been questioning Perry about his energy consulting business, Windhorse Energy LLC in Dripping Springs. According to documents filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in March 2009, Perry applied with the commission for his business to engage in wholesale sales of electricity and other services. Perry said in the documents that Windhorse Energy would be a “power marketer” and that it did not generate or distribute electricity.  In addition, Perry wrote to the federal commission earlier this month to cancel his registration, stating Windhorse Energy has not conducted any business and had no active contracts for sales.

The bylaw in question prevents a director from working for a wholesale power company for at least three years prior to serving on the board.  That bylaw, along with a number of other reforms in co-op governance procedures, was approved in November by Perry and the rest of the board . Perry was elected six months earlier.

The board voted 3-2 not to begin disqualification proceedings against Perry and to initiate a review of the new bylaw. Perry abstained, however he did argue that when he was elected to the board, the bylaw wasn’t on the books, and that it was unfair to apply it retroactively.

Perry, the former assistant energy secretary for the State of New Mexico, has emerged as one of the board’s leading voices for renewable energy.  And he would have been unable to sell power in Texas anyway since he did not register with the Public Utility Commission. 

The board will have to resolve this issue, but we hope they do so in a fair and equitable way.  Nevertheless, we have to say kudos to Perry and other members of the board for disclosing any potential conflicts of interest.  This is something that would have been unlikely in the closed-off “old days” of Pedernales.

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On Wednesday, January 26th, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will consider the air quality permit application for the Las Brisas Energy Center, a planned petroleum coke-fired power plant that just last month, two administrative law judges said does not meet emission standards.

Public Citizen, the SEED Coalition and Sierra Club have all argued that the 1,200-megawatt petroleum coke plant proposed near Corpus Christi should be held to the same air-quality standards as traditional coal plants.  The State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) administrative law judges must have agreed, twice recommending denial of this permit because of major flaws in the permit application.

The three-member TCEQ commission will be on thin legal ice if it approves the application tomorrow considering the ALS’s actions to date.  Not to mention that the Texas agency seems to be locked in a death match with the EPA over the regulation of greenhouse gasses.  Nevertheless, were I a betting woman, I wouldn’t bet on them denying the permit.  What do you think?

[polldaddy poll=4444923]

The TCEQ meeting begins 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the agency’s headquarters near Interstate 35 and Parmer Lane. Click here for the agenda.

UPDATE:

We have learned that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has urged the TCEQ  to deny the air quality permit to Las Brisas Energy Center petroleum coke-fired power plant in Corpus Christi on grounds that the project has not demonstrated it can comply fully with the Clean Air Act.

EPA Deputy Regional Administrator Lawrence Starfield  sent a letter yesterday stating, “We continue to have strong concerns about the public health and environmental impacts of this project based on our review . . .  Neither EPA nor the public have had the opportunity to exercise their rights under the (Clean Air Act) to review the (Las Brisas’) demonstrations of compliance.”

Wonder if that changes the odds?

Yet another UPDATE!

Well, if that had been a real bet instead of just a poll then everyone who participated right up to the unbelievable decision would have won.  Of course, the odds that the Commission would have denied the permit were astronomical number : 1

So the TCEQ approved the Las Brisas Energy Center’s air permit, their lawyer said he was dismayed that anyone would say anything bad about TCEQ doing their job.  Go figure.  That makes 3,032 for industry, 0 for the citizens of Texas.

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Keynote’s promotion of coal leans heavily on unrealistic view of the Texas energy market

In a forum held last Thursday the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) unveiled a report that attempts to sway the debate about Texas energy policy off its current trajectory – namely ideas put forward by high-profile Republicans officials like Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Senator Troy Fraser to help transition the state’s electric supply away from coal and towards natural gas.

Unfortunately, the report wasn’t precisely accurate in its representation of the facts. Here’s perhaps the most important chart in the entire TPPF report (entitled Texas Energy and the Energy of Texas co-authored by Dr. Steven Hayward who was the forum’s keynote speaker) with a couple modifications to try and make it a little more accurate:

Modified chart from TPPF report

As you will note from my (clearly marked) changes, TPPF was not presenting the actual cost of electricity from different fuel sources, but the cost of the fuels themselves. That makes the chart inaccurate since the cost of electricity also depends on things like the cost of building a power plant. Of course that’s a minor expenditure of only several billion dollars in the case of most coal and nuclear plants and hundreds of millions of dollars for natural gas plants.

The TPPF chart was also misleading in three important ways, and one can only really conclude that it was intentionally so. (more…)

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