Friday, July 21, 2006

Bell Challenges Perry on Support for Coal-Fired Plants

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell has been criticizing Perry for some time now on the state of our parks. Now he's taking Perry on on another issue of concern to North Texans -- the fast-tracking of permits for coal-fired power plants.

Mr. Bell said that there should be more studies of how new plants would affect air quality in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and that neighborhoods should get a chance to voice concerns.

"Obviously there's some big challenges in the Dallas area," Mr. Bell said at a news conference in front of Kimball High School. "Rick Perry has fast-tracked that process. ... The deck is completely stacked on the side of the polluters."

Bell's concerns join Dallas Mayor Laura Miller's call to fifty mayors to help her intervene in the permitting process.

Texas power companies are considering construction of up to sixteen new power plants over the next few years. They have enlisted Governor Perry's help in fast-tracking the review process to green light construction.

So why the rush? Proponents argue Texas is growing and construction now will prevent a California-style shortage in the near future.

There have been volleys from both sides arguing whether the pollution levels will increase or decrease as a result of the construction. North Texas municipalities are facing potentially severe sanctions if pollution, such as ozone, isn't brought down to conform to federal guidelines by 2010. Coal is a particularly dirty if inexpensive source of energy, contributing to a range of pollutants, including mercury. As a result, many power companies are trying to eliminate reliance on it. But here in Texas, TXU leads the way in proposals to build coal-fired plants.
TXU's strategy stands in stark contrast to many of its industry peers. Sempra Energy recently dropped plans to build two coal-fired power plants in Nevada and Idaho because of impending state regulations to curb global warming pollutants. PG&E has avoided coal altogether, opting instead to spend billions of dollars on energy efficiency so that it will delay needing new power sources. And even though American Electric Power is relying on coal, it is pushing to build "clean coal" power plants in the Midwest that will be able to capture carbon dioxide, the main pollutant causing global warming.
The global warming issue has even investors concerned. Coal-burning power plants are the number one source of carbon dioxide emissions. Critics charge the decision to invest in more coal-burning plants now may have less to do with demand than the growing realization that carbon dioxide may soon be regulated as a pollutant. The Supreme Court is set to begin considerations in October regarding this issue. And retiring Senator Jeffords (I-VT) is preparing to introduce a bill regulating carbon dioxide emissions as his swan song in the Senate. The question is whether TXU can build its plants soon enough that they would be grandfathered under any new regulations.
TXU is already the nation's 10th-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the electric sector, emitting 55 million tons in 2004 alone. And those numbers will jump dramatically if it builds 8,600 megawatts of new coal plant capacity -- all without any controls for capturing greenhouse gases
Chris Bell thinks caution is in order.

"I would definitely do away with the fast-tracking," Mr. Bell said. "Under Rick Perry's reign of error, polluters actually get rewarded for violating environmental laws."

In outlining his own plan, Mr. Bell said the state would have to consider using more renewable energy and rethink transportation policy. He also called for the preservation and planting of more trees.

With record temperatures scorching the country and ozone levels creeping up, the detrimental effects of our current energy policy are becoming more concrete in the public's mind. Sooner or later stricter regulations are inevitable. The question is whether critics can stall construction long enough to garner the widespread support necessary for change, or whether business concerns will once again trump public health.


Anonymous said...

This should be a BIG ISSUE this year
in DFW,TXU throws alot of money around buying congressional candidates, TXU and AT&T will be my comeback to unrepentent republicans I come across when I work the percinct this year

Hows that electricty bill working out for you
Your kids digging that ground level ozone
Don't you wish your cable bill was a little bit higher

These clownidates are owned by big business, hook, line & sinker

texas toad said...

Thanks for the link.

And good luck working the trenches.