Tag Archives: lower colorado river authority

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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San Antonio Expected to Close Coal Plant

This happened!!!

Sierra Club and Partners celebrate with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (second from right) and CPS CEO Doyle Beneby (back row, second from left)

Sierra Club and Partners Celebrate First Announced Closing of a Publicly-owned Coal Plant in Texas

San Antonio’s Deely Plant Expected to Close by 2018, Replaced by Clean, Solar Power

Monday afternoon, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is expected to announce that City Public Service’s (CPS) Deely coal-fired power plant will shut down by 2018. Additional solar power contracts for the San Antonio area will replace that dirty electricity and bring clean energy jobs to Texas. In advance of today’s expected announcement, the Sierra Club, SEED Coalition, and Public Citizen issued the following statement.

“Sierra Club and our partners extend our appreciation to Mayor Julian Castro and City Public Service CEO Doyle Beneby for their vision and leadership,” said Loretta Van Coppenolle with the Alamo Group of the Sierra Club.  “The people of San Antonio will reap the benefits of their decision to create a future with cleaner air and healthier lives.  Closing Deely coal plant and transitioning to a clean energy economy will be a tremendous benefit for San Antonio. ”

 

The announcements today confirm the new direction taken by CPS Energy which has committed to meeting 20% of its energy needs through renewable energy by 2020, and reducing its peak demand through energy efficiency by 780 megawatts. CPS Energy recently began receiving power from a 14 MW solar plant in South San Antonio, and has signed a contract with SunEdison for an additional 30 MWs of solar power.

 

“The new leadership at CPS Energy, the Mayor and the residents of San Antonio deserve credit for rejecting the initial love affair with the proposed nuclear plant, and instead embracing an alternative vision — more wind and solar power, a significant investment in energy efficiency, cutting-edge building codes, and the retirement of Deely.  We hope they can phase out Deely even before 2018,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.  “Loretta Van Coppenolle played a powerful leadership role over many years of negotiations and considers that the deal might not have been struck with out the support and participation of the Alamo Sierra Club.”

Charles English and the Jefferson Heights Association of neighbors living near the coal plant, Cindy Wheeler and the activists of Energia Mia, Karen Hadden with the SEED Coalition (Sustainable Energy for Economic Development), and Tom ‘Smitty’ Smith with Public Citizen also played instrumental roles with Van Coppenolle and the Alamo Sierra Club, Reed, and Neil Carman, .

Environmental groups do not support the west Texas Summit coal plant that could be part of San Antonio’s plan.

“Any purchase of coal power from the proposed Summit coal plant should be conditional upon phasing out Deely,” said Ryan Rittenhouse.  “Furthermore, CPS should commit to running Deely’s two dirty coal boilers as little as possible leading up to the phase out.”

The CPS Deely plant is the first publically-owned coal plant slated for retirement in Texas.

Sierra Club has called for phasing out the Lower Colorado River Authority’s Fayette coal plant, which is partially-owned by the City of Austin. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign has also called for the phase-out of several privately owned coal plants:  TXU-Luminant’s Big Brown coal plant in Fairfield, the Martin Lake coal plant near Henderson , and the Monticello coal plant near Mount Pleasant.  Several recently permitted coal plants in Texas have been prevented from starting, and three, White Stallion, Las Brisas, and Tenaska face additional obstacles.

“San Antonio’s decision to phase out the Deely coal plant signals the beginning of the end of the coal-burning era and its associated air pollution and illness in Texas,” said Eva Hernandez, with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.  “We are ready for Austin to follow suit and for other municipal utilities, the electric co-ops, retail electric utilities, and indeed the State of Texas to move forward with our clean energy economy.  This is the way we will create more jobs while breathing cleaner air in Texas.”

 Contact:  Eva Hernandez, 512-299-1550

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Posted by Donna Hoffman

 

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Second best! LCRA delay on Coal Plant Water

Sierra Club, Public Citizen, the No Coal Coalition and numerous Texas water users applauded LCRA’s decision yesterday to delay a decision on a proposed White Stallion coal plant water contract.

Matagorda Co. Judge McDonald opposes water for coal

The Board room was full and public comment began with elected officials from Matagorda County in the south, Travis County in the middle and Burnet County in the north of the Colorado River basin, all opposing the coal plant water and all citing drought concerns.

Lydia Avila, Sierra Club Beyond Coal organizer

Lydia Avila spoke for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. She welcomed this decision,

Even though they haven’t denied it yet, we’re glad they’re taking their time to look into the serious implications of this coal plant request. We’re confident that when they look at the facts that this is a bad deal for Texans, they will reject it.

The Board suggested a 30-45 day period before they would consider it again.

Ryan Rittenhouse, Public Citizen and Coal Block organizer

Ryan Rittenhouse with Public Citizen and Coal Block spoke at the meeting.  Afterwards he said,

The proposed White Stallion coal plant is not a beneficial or responsible use of water.  LCRA can and should deny this water request.  We should invest in cleaner renewable energy so that we assure water for our future.

Sierra Club recognizes and appreciates the over 2,000 people who sent comments to LCRA recommending LCRA reject water for the proposed White Stallion coal plant.  We ask if you will stay tuned and prepare to comment and show up again, if and when LCRA reconsiders the proposed White Stallion water request.  Contact Lydia Avila, 512-477-1729 to get more involved.  Thank you!

~ Donna Hoffman

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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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Don’t Lead this Horse to Water

The Sierra Club today released a report, Proposed White Stallion Coal-Fired Power Plant Water Demands and the Highland Lakes Water Supply”.  Along with Matagorda County rancher-land stewards, Sierra Club asked the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) to deny a water contract for the proposed White Stallion coal plant.

The report by Dr. Lauren Ross of Glenrose Engineering provides information in advance of an expected agenda item on the proposed water contract at the Wednesday, June 15 LCRA Board of Directors Meeting set in Austin.  The report finds that there is not enough water available for the White Stallion request:

Combined Firm Yield Water from Lakes Buchanan & Travis   535,812 acre feet per year
Firm Water Commitments -514,028 acre feet per year
Uncommitted Water  21,784 acre feet per year
   

White Stallion Request 25,000 > Uncommitted 21,784 acre feet per year

DROUGHT The potential LCRA contract would commit this supply to be available for the proposed White Stallion during the most severe historical drought of record and it would compromise so called ‘interruptible’ agricultural and environmental flows needs.

Dr. Lauren Ross, Glenrose Engineering

“LCRA is contemplating meeting White Stallion’s coal plant water demand by a combination of run of river water,  that is — water from rain and run-off during wet periods and reservoirs that don’t exist,” said Dr. Lauren Ross whose firm Glenrose Engineering produced the report.  “In the extreme drought that we are experiencing there is no excess run of river water and reservoirs are evaporating at greater than normal rates.  LCRA must concentrate on meeting currently committed water uses and the requested White Stallion contract should be denied.”

The report further finds that:

      • 11% of the water supplied for White Stallion from Lakes Buchanan and Travis would be lost to evaporation and leakage before it arrives at the pumping plant. If accepting this contract, LCRA would waste 3,000 acre-feet per year in evaporation and leakage.
      • Water supplied under the proposed contract would lower storage levels in Lakes Buchanan and Travis and would result in less water being provided for agricultural irrigation, instream flows, and Matagorda bay and estuary inflows.
      • A study of the effects of climate change on water availability in Texas released in March 2011, estimates significant changes in precipitation, evaporation, and runoff in Central Texas due to climate change. It predicts significant deficits in reservoir storage during drought conditions with climate change, compared to similar predictions without climate change. This information on the effects of climate change on rain, evaporation, and runoff should be considered before making any additional commitments for firm water supply.

Laurance Armour, General Manager of Pierce Ranch in Wharton County and member of LCRA’s Water Management Plan Advisory Committee.

 Laurance Armour, General Manager of Pierce Ranch in Wharton County and member of LCRA’s Water Management Plan Advisory Committee commented on the upcoming decision by LCRA about the water contract:

With this exceptional drought, there isn’t enough water right now for current stakeholders —  cities, farmers, the environment and all the businesses that currently depend upon Lakes Travis and Buchanan for their existence.  Additional sales of Colorado River water to unneeded industrial users such as the proposed White Stallion coal plant, would take river water away from people who currently depend upon that water for their livelihoods and drinking water.  If there’s no significant rain between now and January 2012, there will barely be enough water for the people in and around Austin and no water for the farmers in the lower basin.  We can’t waste water on unnecessary and polluting coal plants.

Susan Dancer, Texas Blessings Ranch owner pointed to the potential externalized costs to existing ‘interruptible’ water users of granting the proposed contract to White Stallion:

Do we really want the coal industry’s water rights to trump those of agriculture and the environment we depend upon?  During this drought, we are especially in need of water to irrigate our human and livestock food crops as well as our hay pastures.  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 externalized financial costs of such a facility as White Stallion.  Taking our water for an un-needed, coal-burning project is one of the ways that White Stallion would cripple the existing economy.  LCRA must refuse this unnecessary and dangerous move.

The proposed White Stallion coal plant faces other obstacles to being built in Matagorda County where the medical community, landowners, and numerous community leaders are strongly opposed to the project.  Though permitted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), a state district judge recently remanded the permit back to TCEQ due to faulty information in the permit application.

Eva Hernandez, Regional Manager Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign

“Burning coal for electricity is obsolete – it causes too much pollution and uses too much water,” said Eva Hernandez with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.  “Instead, we need to preserve our precious water resources for truly vital human needs, especially during this extreme drought that authorities don’t expect to change soon.  White Stallion is a bad idea all around and the LCRA should lead the way instead to creating Texas’ clean energy economy with more energy efficiency and renewable energy — wind and distributed solar power.”

The Sierra Club encourages concerned people to contact LCRA Board Members to ask them to deny a water contract and air permit for White Stallion coal plant.

Background Information:  See The Impact of Global Warming on Texas cited in the report, and another key water report – Energy-Water Nexus in Texas#  #  #

Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce Says NO to White Stallion

On December 8, 2010, the Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution opposing the granting of a water contract to the White Stallion Energy Center from the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA).

White Stallion, a proposed coal-fired power plant for Bay City, TX, applied for an LCRA water contract in 2009. The plant would need approximately 6.5 billion gallons of water per year to operate that it hopes to get from our very own Highland Lakes. Given that the members of the Chamber and other businesses in the area rely heavily on the presence of water in Lake Travis, it only made sense for the Chamber to oppose this wasteful use of a precious resource.

In 2009, Lake Travis’ water levels were the lowest they had been since 1963 and the 3rd lowest in the Lake’s history, which severely effected businesses on the Lake. Clearly, we cannot afford such a large burden on our limited water sources, especially for something that, if built, would emit 10 million tons of carbon dioxide, 4,955 tons of sulfur dioxide, 4,047 tons of nitrogen oxide, 1792 tons of particulate matter and 96 pounds of mercury per year.

We’re happy to see that the Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce has realized that the White Stallion Energy Center will only be good for one business: White Stallion.  With it’s enormous amounts of pollution and immense intake of water, it will only adversely affect businesses all along the Colorado River, Houston, and, of course, Bay City.

The LCRA Board of Directors are expected to vote on this water contract in a few months.  Write or call them today and ask them to deny the contract for the sake of existing businesses and our future water security

To join the fight against White Stallion, sign up to volunteer! For more information on the effects of this water contract visit the “about” section of this webpage.

Posted by Lydia D. Avila, Conservation Organizer.

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Texas Pecan Alliance: Phase out Fayette Coal

Pecans are common throughout Kirby
Image via Wikipedia

Fayette area growers and producers point to damage from Coal Plant Sulfur Dioxide and Acid Gases

(Austin)  Sierra Club and representatives of pecan growers and producers in Fayette and Colorado Counties in the Texas Pecan Alliance requested at an Austin City Hall press conference today compensation for losses resulting from pollution from the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and City of Austin’s Fayette Power Project coal plant.

“Over two dozen orchards and the livelihoods of my family and many of our neighbors have been seriously impacted by the pollution from Fayette coal plant,” said Harvey Hayek of Hayek Farm and the Texas Pecan Alliance. “In 1980, the year after the coal plant went on line, we saw the abundant production out here drop and then in the Nineties, the trees began to die.  Recently, I had to buy a bag of pecans at H.E.B. so my wife could make cookies.”

Hayek and almost 50 people in the Texas Pecan Alliance met with LCRA officials and engineers from Austin Energy and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on November 16.  Since the meeting, the TCEQ is considering additional monitoring, members of Austin City Council have set up meetings for further discussion, and the LCRA has denied Fayette coal plant contributed to pecan industry losses.

Dr. Neil Carman chemist and Clean Air Program Director, biochemical injury process, “Acid pollution from the coal plant falls on the leaves causing damage characterized by brown, dead spots, while the sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas from the plant emissions enters the sensitive leaf structure from underneath, biochemically attacking the leaves from within and eventually causing leaf loss and the death of the tree.”

Mr. Hayek explained that it takes 220 leaves to produce a single pecan nut on a tree.

“This orchard has been in my wife’s family for the past century.  We want to recover from this damage.  We want the air, water, and soil to be clean and safe enough to replant so my grandchildren can enjoy the abundance we enjoyed,” said Hayek.

Hayek, Carman, and others in the Texas Pecan Alliance also expressed concerns about corrosion, water quality, coal ash waste, and human health.

Eva Hernandez, with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Texas said, “The pecan industry losses clearly show one of many direct economic blows from burning coal for electricity.  From the Clean Air Task Force study, we also know that, on an annual basis, Fayette coal plant pollution is linked to almost 1,000 heart attacks, asthma attacks, cases of chronic bronchitis, hospital admissions, emergency room visits, and 37 early deaths.   There are direct costs associated with these health impacts and we are talking about a devastating reduction in quality of life.  We can do better and we deserve better.  LCRA and City of Austin must phase out Fayette coal plant by 2020 and completely develop our energy efficiency and renewable energy future — particularly solar power.”

The Clean Air Task Force study, Dirty Air, Dirty Power:  Mortality and Health Damage Due to Air Pollution from Power Plants can be found at:

http://www.catf.us/coal/problems/power_plants/existing/map.php?state=Texas

Texas Pecan Alliance representatives from Fayette and Colorado county today delivered ‘Vanishing Pecan Pies’ baked by Austin residents calling themselves the Pecan Posse to the Mayor and Austin City Council Members, Cheryl Mele, Chief Operating Officer of Austin Energy, the City Manager’s office, and to the LCRA. They explained that the pies symbolized “the growing awareness in Austin about Fayette coal plant pollution and growing support for clean air and sustainable conditions for local food.”

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