Author Archives: lydiavila

Alternatives

-Guest blog on the Fayette coal plant by Sierra Club supporter Elaine Blodgett.  Check out Lost Pines Lefty for more of Elaine’s blogs.

Alternatives

Just yesterday I was at a town hall with my state representative. When I asked a question about our water future, he informed me that our aquifer is possibly the most productive in Texas right now. As such, it is highly desired by many areas around the state without such a resource. People in this area are understandably concerned about whether enough of  ‘our’ water will be left for us when the more populous and growing parts of the state really set their sights on it.
Texas as a whole must start thinking seriously and maturely about water. Our antiquated laws are not good enough in the 21st century. We must explore all alternatives to maintain our supplies.
One place we most certainly have not looked up to now is at our energy production. Besides all the other negative aspects to coal production and use (land destruction, pollution and toxins), it uses more water than cleaner types of energy provision. Right here in the LCRA region there is a coal plant which uses 13 milliion gallons of water EVERY DAY. In an area where the lakes are shrinking and there are battles among the people living up and down the river over who can have how much water, it seems clear we cannot afford this anymore. To continue this facility, by federal environmental statutes, the LCRA will soon have to spend millions to stop the pollution which it has been raining down on local residents. Is it really worth it when Texas is a prime source of wind and solar energy?
Even our Republican U.S. representative is actively promoting Texas wind power.
And at a time when everyone is concerned with health care costs, can we afford the costs that this plant and others like it foist off on us, thereby hiding their true toll? If we added all these hidden costs, how competitive would ‘alternative energy’ be?
Perhaps this would cost jobs, but there are solutions to that. Like mandatory training programs for the laid-off workers to enable them to find new, better jobs. (A small cost for the savings that will come and for the dangerous work we have asked them to do for us.)
The point is – There are alternatives to coal power. There are alternatives to fights over limited water supplies in growing areas. There are alternatives to dirty, low wage jobs. There are alternatives to hidden costs that fool us into thinking something is cheaper when it isn’t.

There is no alternative to water.

 

 

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Lake Travis Party a Hit!

Austin Beyond Coal
Photo by Craig Nazor

Austin Beyond Coal sure knows how to throw a party!

Last Saturday, November 17th, the Austin Beyond Coal campaign hosted a great lakeside party at the Iguana Grill to kick off efforts in the lakes region to phase out the Fayette coal-fired power plant.

The Fayette Power Project is a 1,600 MW coal plant plant located in Fayette County, Texas that uses more than 5 billion gallons of water from our river and lakes every single year.  In a time of extreme drought, this is water that could be put to better use supporting our communities and farms, or simply being conserved.   As you’ll see in the pictures below, the fact that we are still in one of the worst droughts this state has every seen was very obvious while out on Lake Travis last weekend.

Lake Travis
Photo by Craig Nazor

Attendees heard from Austin Beyond Coal volunteers as well as Dr. Lauren Ross, an engineer who knows quite a bit about the relationship between water, coal and the LCRA; all of this while enjoying great food, great music from the Bouldin Creek Bobkat Band and a beautiful Texas sunset.

Bouldin Creek Bobkat Band
Photo by Craig Nazor

Missed out? No problem! For information on how to get involved in efforts to phase out of the Fayette coal plant and free up 5 billion gallons of water a year, email lydia.avila@sierraclub.org.

– Lydia Avila, Associate Field Representative for Beyond Coal

More than 3,000 Texans Call on Reps. Canseco and Farenthold to Renew Wind Production Tax Credit

Inline image 1

For Immediate Release:
October 11th, 2012

Contact:
Dave Cortez (512) 736-­‐7600 – Davec@bluegreenalliance.org
Jeffrey Clark (512) 651-­‐0291 – Jeff@windcoalition.org
Jeff Neves (361) 844-­‐6721 – Jeff@amshore.com

More than 3,000 Texans Call on Reps. Canseco and Farenthold 
to Renew Wind Production Tax Credit

Texas – Today, more than 3,000 Texans and other clean energy advocates submitted letters to Representatives Quico Canseco (CD­‐23) and Blake Farenthold (CD-27) asking them to protect jobs by speaking out in favor of extending the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy.

The wind industry currently supports more than 75,000 jobs across the country, with over 7,000 right here in Texas. With a PTC expiration only three months away, the industry is already experiencing layoffs and manufacturing plant closings in several states.

“Wind energy is providing local jobs and economic development at a time when we need it most, and is helping to provide a cleaner, healthier future for all Texans,” said Jeffrey Clark, Executive Director of The Wind Coalition, a non-profit association representing developers, owners and operators of wind farms, turbine and component part manufacturers, law and engineering firms and public interest advocates. ”The development of new clean energy projects and the continuation of existing projects hang in the balance as Congress wavers on the renewal of critical wind energy tax credits.”

As a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report stated, “Current energy tax policy is the result of prior policy action undertaken in an effort to achieve the nation’s long­‐standing goal of enhancing U.S. energy security. For example, the promotion of domestic fossil fuel production, the current principle short-run strategy, was a central tenet of energy tax policy from 1918 through the late 1960s” (Sherlock and Crandall-­Hollick, September 2012).

In addition, U.S. government support for oil, natural gas, and coal has totaled over $500 billion from 1950 to 2006 according to Management Information Services Incorporated. Some of these incentives have been permanent fixtures of the tax code for decades, whereas the PTC has been periodically extended on a short term basis since 1992.

“If this were about picking winners and losers then we’d be discussing all energy subsidies that support Texas jobs, not just those that support the rapidly growing clean energy sector,” said Dave Cortez, Coordinator for the Texas BlueGreen Apollo Alliance. “Wind energy has helped grow our economy and has kept the lights on during peak demand. Congressmen Canseco and Farenthold have an opportunity to take politics out of the equation and put working families first by giving wind power the same long term support provided to other sources of energy.”

Despite bipartisan support for the PTC in wind states across the country, many members of the House of Representatives from Texas have refused to call for a vote to protect current and future wind jobs in their “wind” districts. By submitting the 3,000 plus letters, supporters of the PTC want to show the congressmen that Texans want support wind power and want more energy security.

“I think when politicians take all or nothing positions, and fail to examine which subsidies are valuable and which are wasteful, they often make dire mistakes that can set us back decades,” said Jeff Neves, Project Developer for American Shoreline Inc. “The goal for wind developers is to use the PTC to get a start and then operate without assistance. The development of wind power in South Texas has been in the works for many years, and it presents incredible long term potential to continue for years to come, not due to subsidies, but because of the competitive characteristics of the region, and the PTC is just a means of fostering that growth.”
List of key wind projects in CD 23
Anacacho Wind Farm (Near Uvalde)
Desert Sky Wind Project (CPS Energy purchases power from here)
Sherbino Wind Farms (BP owned near Ft. Stockton)
Woodward Mountain Wind Ranch

List of key wind projects in CD 27
Palo Alto West Wind Farm (Proposed for construction in Nueces County, projected $3 million annual tax revenue)
Papalote Wind Farm (Near Taft, Texas)
Magic Valley Wind Farm (Willacy County, formerly represented by CD-­‐27)

More Than 3,000 Texans Call on Reps. Canseco and Farenthold to Save Texas Wind Jobs

Contact: Dave Cortez, Texas BlueGreen Alliance
Davec@bluegreenalliance.org,  512-736-7600

More Than 3,000 Texans Call on
Reps. Canseco and Farenthold to Save Texas Wind  Jobs

WHO:
Dave Cortez – Emcee, Coordinator at Texas BlueGreen Alliance
Jeff Clark – Executive Director, The Wind Coalition
Jeff Neves – Project Developer, American Shoreline Inc.

WHAT: Teleconference on benefits of wind production tax credit in Texas

WHEN: Thursday, October 11th, 11AM CT

CALL INFO: 1-866-501-6174
code: 317-0874-1892
*Spanish speakers available for quotes*

With help from the federal wind energy production tax credit, Texas has become a national leader in wind energy and wind jobs. The Production Tax Credit helps level the energy playing field between fossil fuels and renewables, and has been a key engine in the huge growth of the wind industry over the past decade. The wind industry currently supports more than 75,000 jobs across the country, including over 7,000 here in Texas.  If the PTC is not renewed by the end of the year, an estimated 37,000 jobs will be lost.

As a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report stated, “Current energy tax policy is the result of prior policy action undertaken in an effort to achieve the nation’s long-standing goal of enhancing U.S. energy security.  For example, the promotion of domestic fossil fuel production, the current principle short-run strategy, was a central tenet of energy tax policy from 1918 through the late 1960s” (Sherlock and Crandall-Hollick, September 2012).

In addition, U.S. government support for oil, natural gas, and coal has totaled over $500 billion from 1950 to 2006 according to Management Information Services Incorporated. Some of these incentives have been permanent fixtures of the tax code for decades, whereas the PTC has been periodically extended on a short-term basis since 1992.

List of key wind projects in CD 23
Anacacho Wind Farm (Near Uvalde)
Desert Sky Wind Project (CPS Energy purchases power from here)
Sherbino Wind Farms (BP owned)
Woodward Mountain Wind Ranch

List of key wind projects in CD 27
Palo Alto West Wind Farm (Proposed for construction in Nueces County, projected $3 million annual tax revenue)
Papalote Wind Farm (Near Taft, Texas)
Magic Valley Wind Farm (Willacy County)

South Texas wind farms awaiting fate of energy tax credit
http://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/news/2012/10/01/south-texas-wind-farms-awaiting-fate.html

AWEA Factsheet
http://www.awea.org/learnabout/publications/factsheets/upload/2Q-12-Texas-2.pdf

White Stallion’s Uncertain Water Future

After losing a 26,000 acre feet per year water contract with the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the White Stallion Energy Center, a 1200 MW proposed coal plant for Matagorda County, Texas has had to scramble to find other sources of water. As a result, the developers announced a costly design change that they claim will reduce their water needs, but still require the equivalent of almost 1 billion gallons of water per year (about 3,000 acre feet).  To meet this demand without a contract from LCRA, White Stallion has quickly turned to private landowners in Matagorda County in an attempt to gain access to groundwater.  So far, most of the smart people of Matagorda County have not sold their private water, and the few sellers the coal plant’s developers have identified are not selling enough to meet White Stallion’s water needs.

Most critically, not only is the groundwater supply that the developer has identified not sufficient to meet White Stallion’s needs, but groundwater is also an unreliable water supply for a baseload utility planning to operate in a drought-prone state.  The Coastal Plains Groundwater Conservation District (CPGCD), which manages groundwater for the area, adopted amendments to their rules on June 29th, 2012 to allow them to better manage and respond to aquifer conditions such as the ongoing historical drought.  In order to protect the health of the aquifer for future generations, the District has implemented a curtailment scheme that will be implemented based on aquifer conditions (Subchapter B: Production Limits, Section 6.11.c, page 53).   This is a proactive and sustainable approach to groundwater management and is meant to ensure the viability of the aquifer for future generations.

What does this mean for White Stallion and other permitees?  If aquifer conditions reach triggers laid out in the rules, anyone who applied for a water permit or amended their permit for a different use after 2011 would be required to restrict their pumping by up to 80%.  Since both of the landowners who have agreed to sell their water to White Stallion meet these criteria, only 600 acre feet of water per year is “guaranteed” during times where aquifer levels are low.  Furthermore, all permits, under the CPGCD’s rules, are only valid for 3 years at a time– all permits are up for renewal every 3 years (Subchapter B: Application Requirements and Processing, Section 3.15.a, page 27).

Given the severity of the Texas drought in the past and its ongoing nature, it’s possible we will see curtailment in the future.   Does this seem like a good investment to you?

-Lydia Avila, Associate Field Representative

We’re looking for interns! Deadline Extended

Looking for an awesome internship that allows you to gain useful skills that build your resume all while helping combat climate change and protect the environment?  Look no more: Texas Sierra Club is currently accepting internship applications for fall 2012!

Please click here for the Sierra Club Internship- Austin Fall 2012 description and instructions on how to apply.

Application deadline is August 31st, 12PM CT.

Mayors from Around the Country, including some of Texas’ biggest cities, Call for Greater Protection from Toxic Pollution

The mayors of Austin, Houston and San Antonio, joined nearly 100 other mayors from cities and towns across the United States in submitting a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson, demonstrating widespread support for the Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

These new rules call for national emission standards limiting mercury, arsenic, chromium, acid gases and other toxic airborne contaminants discharged from coal- and oil-fired power plants.  Coal plants are the single largest source of mercury pollution, and until now there have been no such national emissions limits.

The mayors supporting the effort represent America’s seven largest cities, as well as a diverse cross section of communities from across the country.  Together they represent more than 33 million citizens.

The Center for Disease control estimates that as many as 1 in 6 women of child bearing age have enough mercury in their blood stream to harm a developing baby.  Every state now has warnings against eating fish from local rivers, lakes and streams due to mercury contamination.   Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that imperils the brain development of infants and young children, affecting their ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn. Each year over 400,000 infants are born with mercury contamination exceeding safe levels.

Because they are so densely populated, cities are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of hazardous air pollution. Once fully implemented, EPA expects that the rules will prevent up to 11,000 deaths annually. Additionally, the health protections of these rules – including the prevention of heart and asthma attacks – will save each American $3-$9 in health costs for every dollar spent to reduce toxic pollution.

Click here to read a letter from elected officials expressing strong support for the new standards and take a moment to thank our Texas mayors on Facebook and Twitter!

Austin: @LeeLeffingwell

Houston: @anniseparker

San Antonio: @JulianCastro

Sample tweet: 91 mayors stand up for EPA’s #mercury protections and #CleanAir4Kids. Thanks @(mayor) for your leadership. http://bitly.com/LZ6Ux0