Austin Mayor Renews Commitment to Move Beyond Coal, Sierra Club Applauds Announcement

Austin, TX – This afternoon, Mayor Lee Leffingwell renewed his commitment to the City of Austin’s generation plan by stating that Austin must move beyond coal and it is now a top tier priority for his office. This pledge signals that Austin will join other major metropolitan cities across the nation in recognition of the fact that the health effects and costs of coal fired power are too risky to sustain.

“We congratulate Mayor Leffingwell on the renewal of his commitment to move Austin beyond coal. Today’s announcement is consistent with a plan first crafted over a year ago and approved unanimously by City Council in February,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director with the Sierra Club in Austin, and a former member of the Resource Generation Task Force. “Mayor Leffingwell called for a dialogue with the community, with Austin Energy, and with the LCRA. We welcome this dialogue, and as a first step, Sierra Club has developed a plan to phase out of the Fayette Coal Plant by 2016.”

The Sierra Club is hosting a Town Hall meeting on Sunday, December 4, 2011 to discuss Austin’s generation plan and the Club’s analysis which demonstrates that the Fayette Coal Plant is a liability, not a reliable source of electricity. The meeting will be at TSEU Office at 1700 South 1st Street, Austin, Texas from 3:00-5:00pm. Panelists will include experts on solar energy, energy efficiency and the high cost of coal.

“As the Mayor pointed out today, there are competitive alternatives for providing reliable electricity, like wind power,” said Jen Powis, with the Sierra Club.  “Clean energy is good for the environment, good for the bottom line, and good for the people.”

The aging Fayette Coal Plant, jointly-owned by the Lower Colorado River Authority, will see operational costs likely rise significantly over the next few decades. The plant is a major contributor to mercury and other toxic emissions and will need additional upgrades to comply with upcoming mercury pollution safeguards.  The Fayette Plant produces approximately 307 pounds of mercury each year.  Only one gram of mercury is needed to contaminate an entire 20 acre lake. Mercury pollution is a major health concern as the emissions from coal stacks move into the food chain contaminating local rivers and lakes.  At least one dozen Texas lakes and fishing areas are known to possess fish with unsafe levels of mercury contamination.

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Text from Mayor Leffingwell’s speech:

It’s time to get Austin, Texas OFF of coal.

So, starting immediately, I’m going to begin a dialogue with the community, with Austin Energy, with the LCRA, and with state officials, about how to make Austin coal-free — and aggressively plan a date to achieve that goal.
The global energy market is changing and we need to change with it.  Right now wind prices are competitive with fossil fuels, and that is CRITICAL.
Because, as we begin the work to make Austin a coal-free city, we absolutely MUST, and WILL, do it in a way that keeps electric rates competitive and low for our customers.”
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One response to “Austin Mayor Renews Commitment to Move Beyond Coal, Sierra Club Applauds Announcement

  1. This will be interesting to watch. With water being in shortage and the need for electricity on the rise due to a growing population, this may be a really good move.

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