Tag Archives: Race and ethnicity in the United States Census

Series Explores Central Texas Water Crisis, but Hasn’t Yet Found Common Ground

Guest Post by Jared Pesseto, Student Intern Coordinator.

This week the Texas Tribune and KUT 90.5FM have partnered on a series called “Water Fight,” a close look at the various demands on Central Texas’ threatened water supply. The series has made its way further down the Colorado River each day, starting first with a look at dwindling water-levels in the Highland Lakes, then on to municipal demands from cities like Austin, and today to the lush but endangered rice fields near the Texas coast. Tomorrow they will conclude the series with a look at new demands on the water supply in the lower Colorado River, and fortunately they have not overlooked the proposed White Stallion coal plant in Bay City.

It is reassuring to see that KUT and the Texas Tribune are giving serious attention to a serious issue, but one aspect of their approach that is troubling is that the various parties have been prematurely positioned in direct conflict with each other when in fact there is much reason for them to join hands. Lakeside residents, farmers, and cities along the river basin may indeed be party to competing interests in the Colorado River, but when discussing water supply issues in Central Texas we should be careful not to put these groups into opposition quite so readily, for there is an even more pressing threat to water supply in the lower Colorado River that can, and indeed already has brought these groups together in common cause.

As mentioned just briefly in the first part of the series—and something that hopefully will be taken up in much greater detail tomorrow—a coal-fired power plant proposed for Bay City jeopardizes the livelihoods of rice farmers and lakeside property owners alike. Slated for construction 100 miles southwest of Houston on the Colorado River, the White Stallion coal plant requires an 8 billion gallon per year water contract from the Lower Colorado River Authority. If this contract is granted, White Stallion will drain 22 million gallons of water from the lower Colorado River each and every day—a water commitment that is neither wise nor sustainable says Dr. Lauren Ross of Glenrose Engineering, Inc., who authored a report detailing the demands that the White Stallion plant will place on the water supply in the Colorado River. Add to this the disastrous and proven public health threats associated with coal-fired power plants and you have an issue that all sides can find common ground on.

Rice farmers, residents of the Highland Lakes region, and Texans along the Colorado River basin can and should come together to oppose the granting of the White Stallion water contract. Not only can these groups find common ground, but they already have. Just last week members of the various groups came together at a meeting of the LCRA Board of Directors to state their unified opposition to the board’s granting of the water contract. After hours of individual public comments—only one of which was made in support of the contract—the LCRA board took into account the concerns of the people and chose to withhold voting on the contract until further consideration at their August meeting.

Come August, I can guarantee that rice farmers and lakefront property owners will be standing side by side in front of the LCRA Board of Directors to express their disapproval of the White Stallion water contract. Until that vote is taken, though, and the fate of the White Stallion coal plant decided, it would be a gross misfortune to agitate divisions between these groups.  In no way do I feel that this was the intention of KUT and the Texas Observer in producing the second part of this series, and perhaps this issue will be addressed in the final segment of the series. If by chance the issue is not given further voice to, whether by airwaves or by print, it should be known that competition and confrontation between Highland Lakes stakeholders and farmers along the Colorado River is not the de facto relationship in all cases. Threats to our water supply come from all angles, some dividing and some uniting the parties discussed in this series. And while the competition between these parties may be actual and acknowledged, I would hate for our focus to be so narrowed on the obvious divisions that we miss the very thing that threatens us all—White Stallion.

­­­­­­­­­­­­The fifth and final part of the “Water Fight” series will air tomorrow morning at 7:30am on KUT 90.5 FM. Past segments of the series can be found in both audio and text online at KUT.org and TexasTribune.com.

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Environmental Groups and Water Users call on LCRA at Meeting this Morning-Reject Coal Plant Water

Contact:  Lydia Avila, Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign, 626-506-9651
Ryan Rittenhouse, Public Citizen Texas, 440-796-9695

Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and No Coal Coalition call on LCRA Board to Reject  Coal Plant Water

Citizens Want Questions Answered saying Coal Plant Would use Too Much Water

(Austin)  The Sierra Club, Public Citizen, the No Coal Coalition and lower Colorado River Ranchers today urge members of the Board of Directors of the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) to vote at their meeting this morning to deny a water contract requested by the proposed White Stallion coal plant.

“We have to face the facts- there simply isn’t enough water in the Colorado river to cool these old style power plants,” said Ryan Rittenhouse with Public Citizen.  “We’re facing the worst drought in 50 years and maybe in history and yet LCRA staff has their head in the sand and is recommending  approval of this contract when all indications show that there isn’t enough water to go around. We call upon the Board to exercise judgment and just say ‘No’ when the staff is taking a wrong turn.”

Members of Sierra Club, Public Citizen, the No Coal Coalition, other environmental groups and many residents from both the Highland Lakes and Matagorda and Wharton County ends of the LCRA’s managed water basin are attending the meeting at the LCRA headquarters in Austin this morning – some with signs outside.  Many came to make public comments at the microphone.

“Do we really want the coal industry to trump agricultural water needs and the environment that sustains life?” said Susan Dancer, wildlife rehabilitator and owner of Matagorda County Texas Blessings Ranch.  “During this drought, we are especially in need of water to irrigate our human and livestock food crops as well as our hay production.  We need enough freshwater inflow into Matagorda Bay and estuaries to provide the brackish water necessary for many of our fish and shellfish species to reproduce.  The LCRA Board must consider the hidden costs of such a facility as White Stallion.  Taking our water for an un-needed coal plant is one of the ways White Stallion would cripple the existing economy and damage agriculture and the environment.  We ask the LCRA board to manage our water wisely, refuse this contract today, or wait to consider the decision more carefully.”

The Sierra Club released a report this week, “Proposed White Stallion Coal-Fired Power Plant Water Demands and the Highland Lakes Water Supply”.

The report’s author Dr. Lauren Ross said, “According to the water management plan, there is not enough water available for the White Stallion request.  Committing water to this proposed coal plant would compromise agricultural and environmental flows during the most severe historical drought of record.”

At the LCRA’s Water Management Committee meeting last night, members of the LCRA board commented that they had only been updated yesterday morning, they hadn’t had time to finish reading a new proposed contract, and that they wanted the board to take the time to inform citizens on the details.

Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign organizer, Lydia Avila attended both the meeting last night and today’s Board meeting.

Avila said, “The Board must deny this permit today or at the very least, slow down and reconsider such a potentially damaging decision.  The evidence against this proposal is in and people, including the LCRA Board of Directors deserve to know more.  The proposed White Stallion coal plant would displace other water users at a time when extreme drought means we must carefully conserve water for the most important uses,” said Lydia Avila with Sierra Club.  “We don’t need new coal plants, including this one.  We already have enough electricity generation on the grid and we simply can’t afford to burn away our precious water in coal steam.  Texas is are already working on phasing out existing coal plants in favor of clean, water-wise renewable energy such as wind and solar power.  ”

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Donna Hoffman
Communications Coordinator
Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club

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Hold that Horse—Houstonions demand an Environmental Impact Statement on White Stallion

As if the environmental impact on Matagorda county wasn’t bad enough, estimated tons of air emissions and chemical discharge from the White Stallion coal center of Bay City means that pollution contamination would reach miles beyond the plant’s physical location, affecting air quality in neighboring Houston, the most populous city in the southern US.  White Stallion’s emissions jeopardize public health and warrants the need for the EPA to conduct an overall Environmental Impact Statement, not just for the lives in for Bay City, but for Houston as well.

Air quality signboard indicating an ozone watc...

Image via Wikipedia

EPA Air Quality Index

The once embarrassing title, ‘smog capital of the nation,’ jolted Houston into lowering emissions to finally meet federal levels in 2009, but tighter standards imposed last year by the EPA has put Houston back in the struggle to make deeper cutbacks.  The Houston Chronicle reports, the White Stallion facility would push Houston past federal limits for smog and ozone, pumping more than 4,000 tons of nitrogen oxides into the air, the equivalent of 4.8 billion cars, and singlehandedly increasing Houston’s ozone level by 2 parts per billion.  At a time when the EPA has taken strict controls on air pollution to halt new emissions, the need for an EIS on White Stallion is especially dire.  Mayor Parker of Houston has already called upon the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to require an EIS for White Stallion, and for that we thank Mayor Parker.

– Tyra Ismail, Sierra Club Intern –

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Test your White Stallion knowledge!

Think you’re White Stallion savvy?  Want to impress your family members at your next reunion with some impressive coal and White Stallion trivia?   Well you’re in luck! A great volunteer put this White Stallion quiz together and is letting us share it with the world!

With questions like ” Who will White Stallion’s customers be?” and some general coal questions like “How many of the nation’s six largest new coal plants have created the number of jobs promised by developer?” – this is your one-stop shop for White Stallion facts.

Here is the version with the answers and Here is the version without answers for those who really want a challenge!

Tell us how you did!

- Lydia Avila, Conservation OrganizerEnhanced by Zemanta