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Archive for June 13th, 2011

The 2009 record drought left the lower Colorado river basin stricken, but rains following the drought had made major inroads to recovery.  Now as Texas sees more than half the state in an “exceptional” drought with no end in sight, the board of the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) could decide on Wednesday to sell at least 8.3 billion gallons of water a year to the proposed White Stallion coal-fired power plant near the Gulf coast in one of its first major water contracts since the last drought.

As I look out at the crisp brown vegetation baking in the easement outside my window, and the relentlessly hot air shimmering and dancing before me, I am concerned that there isn’t enough water right now for current stakeholders — cities, farmers, the environment and all the businesses that currently depend upon Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan for their existence.

Manufacturing and electric generation required 184,329 acre-feet of water in 2010 , according to estimates by the Lower Colorado Regional Water Planning Group, which provides statistics for the state water plan. By 2060, that number is expected to rise to 356,430.

Despite active opposition to the plant in Matagorda, the LCRA is likely to award the 40-year contract.  It has long held that it is OBLIGATED to sell water as long as it has water to sell and the use is a beneficial one.

John Dickerson, the LCRA board member who represents Matagorda, wants more time to review the contract saying, people in his district are against the plant and this is played out in a public outcry.  The LCRA board has received 2,260 letters and emails opposed to the project and only one letter in support.  In addition to local opposition to this plant, the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) recommended against granting the permit.  But true to their nature, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) granted the permit.  Sierra Club sued in district court and we are currently awaiting the final judgment that will remanded the permit application back to TCEQ to start all over again.

TAKE ACTION

It is important that Texans show up at the LCRA board meeting to speak out against this disastrous water contract.  This is no need to hurry this process and no need to tie up precious Central and South Texas water for an unwanted project.

When:              15 Jun, 9:00 AM

Where:             LCRA Headquarters
3700 Lake Travis Blvd.
Austin, TX 78703 (Map)

Host:               Josh Nelson

Status:             Public, open for RSVP, 10 Guests (Max 100)

To RSVP click here and sign up through CREDO Action

If you can’t attend the meeting, email or call and tell them that you oppose the Lower Colorado River Authority approving the White Stallion coal plant’s requested water contract.

Main Switch Board number is 1-800-776-5272, tell them you want to leave a comment on a board agenda item for Wednesday and they should direct you to the right person.

Or you can submit (their online form says question and they don’t seem to have an option to submit comments, but you can use this) by clicking here.   Be sure to reference the board member if you live in their service area county.

  • Timothy Timmerman, chair, Travis County
  • Rebecca A. Klein, vice chair , Bexar County
  • Kathleen Hartnett White,  secretary, Bastrop County
  • J. Scott Arbuckle, Wharton County
  • Steve K. Balas, Colorado County
  • Lori A. Berger, Fayette County
  • John C. Dickerson III, Matagorda County
  • John M. Franklin, Burnet County
  • Jett J. Johnson, Mills County
  • Sandra Wright Kibby, Comal County
  • Thomas Michael Martine, Blanco County
  • W.F. “Woody” McCasland, Llano County
  • Michael G. McHenry, San Saba County
  • Vernon E. “Buddy” Schrader, Llano County
  • Franklin Scott Spears, Jr., Travis County

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Although the taxi cab industry in Austin is not often considered a power player in politics, individuals, top executives and owners have spent thousands of dollars in this city council election cycle. In particular, the election for the Austin City Council Place 3 seat has seen substantial amounts of money flow into it from the taxi cab companies. The race is between incumbent Randi Shade and newcomer Kathie Tovo. With well over $210,000 raised by the candidates, the taxi companies have accounted for nearly $18,000 of that money.

The influx of money can be attributed to disagreements within the industry by management and cab drivers as described in the Austin American Statesman article by Ben Wear. In the article, General Manager of Austin Yellow Cab Edward Kargbo is quoted as saying that they donated to “council members who we have found to be open to sitting down and hearing both sides.” The main debate is over whether legacy permits should be issued by the city council. The permits would allow drivers with at least 5 years of experience to bypass the three major taxi companies in Austin. The taxi companies are worried that this would lead to a loss of control in the marketplace. In the Place 3 election, Tovo has stated she is in favor of legacy permits whereas Shade has said she is opposed to it.

The large proportion of money that the taxi industry has devoted to this campaign has some people worried like Electric Cab owner Chris Nielsen who has said that City Council members were influenced by donations by cab executives. From The Statesman:

Yellow Cab and Austin Cab were granted five-year franchises in May 2010 by the council. Both votes were unanimous, although Morrison and Riley were not present when the Austin Cab vote occurred. The taxi drivers association at the time argued that given its concerns over the taxi fees and other issues, the term of the franchises should have been much shorter than five years.

The council’s response to the drivers’ concerns was to pass a resolution ordering the city’s staff to develop recommendations on a variety of issues involving taxis. In September, city staffers gave the council a briefing that included some immediate recommendations and items for further study.

Those recommendations included putting into the city code regulations for “low-speed electric vehicles,” a suggestion that has complicated the taxi dynamic this election season.

That proposed ordinance, which was to come before the council on April 21 , would allow the sole Austin company running those golf cart-like vehicles to potentially compete directly with taxis for short trips downtown. The company, Electric Cab of Austin, currently operates only as a shuttle contractor for hotels, rather than as a taxi service.

Two days before it was to come up, however, Shade raised concerns at a council work session about authorizing a new business while study of the overall taxi industry was ongoing. The council decided to table that matter for three to six months.

Electric Cab owner Chris Nielsen , who had flirted earlier in the year with running against Shade, claimed that she and other council members were influenced by the donations they had received from the cab executives. No, Shade said.

“It’s not the city’s job to create a special niche for one guy’s business,” she said.

Nielsen, still angry about the delay, said last week that on the May 14 election day he talked to Yellow Cab employees passing out Shade campaign fliers near the O. Henry Middle School polling place.

He said they told him they were from Houston and were paid by their company to travel to Austin and do the electioneering.

Not so, Shade said, after checking with Kargbo with Yellow Cab. Kargbo said that the Yellow Cab contingent did include employees from Houston, none of them drivers, and some nonemployees.

They were campaigning exclusively for Shade, he said.

Regarding Nielsen’s claim about the workers being on the Yellow Cab payroll during their Austin stay, Kargbo said: “That is 100 percent inaccurate. No one was paid to come up and do anything for Shade.”

With the election coming to a climax later this week, it is likely we are going to see even more money flow into the two campaigns. However, almost 12% of the money raised so far came from the taxi cab industry. It appears that of all the issues facing the city of Austin, the taxi cab debate is one of the most influential yet least talked about issues in the race. Yet the least talked about issue could be the one that decides the City Council Election for the Place 3 seat.

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The Texas Progressive Alliance is wishing — not praying — for rain as it brings you the week’s roundup of the best blog posts from last week.  (Note from Citizen Andy: I am praying for rain, and also hoping everyone heading to Netroots Nation this week from Texas has an amazing time. I think when you all leave the state at once our collective state IQ goes down a half point.)

At McBlogger, Cap’n Kroc discussed the ridiculous plan for Formula 1 racing in Austin and the possibility that it could help us extract better redistricting terms from the Lege. He also points out that that Rick Perry needs to come out of the closet and be himself. It’s a blockbuster post that you have to read to believe.

Congressional redistricting moved its way through the Senate and into the House last week, and Off the Kuff took a look at the numbers for the proposed new districts.

Libby Shaw provides the update on Governor Rooster Perry’s run for POTUS. Come check out what the national audience has in store for a Perry campaign at TexasKaos.

With all the talk last week about how Sarah Palin misinterpreted Paul Revere’s ride, Neil at Texas Liberal offered up a post about the actual event. You need to learn history for yourself. If you let others define your past, they will use that power to screw up your future.

Ryan at TexasVox gives us a double dose of bad news about opposition to the possible tar sands pipeline coming to Texas and the numerous spills they’ve had already.

Letters From Texas presented the case against Rick Perry for President.

The Republican Party of Texas can’t figure out whether to shit or go blind over “sanctuary cities”. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs collects the evidence.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks that the ‘new’ GOP is the same old bad joke if Rick Perry is the best candidate they have to offer.

NOTE: TexasVox and Public Citizen do not endorse all the positions taken by other members of the Texas Progressive Bloggers Alliance, but we are happy to share their thoughts.

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But here in TexasLast week, Public Citizen, the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, Texas League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote to Governor Rick Perry urging him to veto House Bill 2510, “An Act relating to exempting the intrastate manufacture of certain incandescent light bulbs from federal regulation.”  

House Bill 2510 asserts that light bulbs manufactured in Texas and offered for sale and use within Texas are exempt from federal legislation requiring improved light bulb efficiency.  The environmental groups urged the Governor to veto this Bill for several reasons.

  1. This Bill is futile because it sets out conditions that almost certainly cannot be met.  Under the Bill, all of the specialized components used to make incandescent light bulbs must be made in Texas. But there is no evidence that light bulbs could be cost-effectively made from materials located in Texas.  Indeed, tungsten, a critical component of incandescent bulbs is not mined in Texas.  Earlier this year, Governor Brewer of Arizona vetoed a similar light bulb bill passed by the Arizona legislature because she recognized that the conditions of the bill could not be met.
  2. Even if the Bill were not futile as a practical matter, it will not achieve the outcome claimed since the Bill is expressly preempted by federal law and contrary to the numerous decisions of the Supreme Court. 
  3. This Bill sends the wrong signal about the direction that Texas’s economy is heading.  This Bill tells the world that Texas is moving backward, embracing the out-dated technologies of the Nineteenth Century. 

In fact, the opposite is true.  Texas has several companies researching, designing and manufacturing the most advanced LED lighting.  Just this past February the governor sought to move Texas forward by awarding an Emerging Technology Fund grant to an advanced LED lighting company.   This is the right direction for Texas.  But if the Governor doesn’t veto House Bill 2510 and it goes into effect, we will signal that Texas is embracing the past rather than the future.

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