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May 132010

From Green Right Now Reports

Public Citizen has had a few choice words to describe the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act unveiled Wednesday.

Public Citizen argues that the American Power Act benefits corporations more than consumers

Public Citizen argues that the American Power Act benefits corporations more than consumers

Energy program coordinator Tyson Slocum called the draft legislation a  “nuclear energy-promoting, oil drilling-championing, coal mining-boosting gift to polluters bill.”

Slocum’s blog, posted yesterday is based on a broad outline released just in advance of the final draft of American Power Act. He itemizes what Public Citizen, a champion of citizen’s rights and an advocate for sustainable energy, sees as the APA’s numerous flaws:

Excessive nuclear power incentives that burden taxpayers

  • Favoritism toward the nuclear power industry, that “prioritize(s) the needs of nuclear power corporations over the right of citizens to have full, public hearings about the risks and dangers of locating nuclear power plants in their communities.
  • “A jaw-dropping $54 billion” in loans guarantees for the nuclear power industry, despite the high risk of defaults.
  • A 10 percent investment tax credit for new reactors.
  • Tax and bond benefits for municipal power agencies that invest in nuclear power

The expansion of offshore oil drilling

  • It strongly incentivizes states to endorse offshore oil drilling by allowing them to keep 37.5 percent of oil and gas royalty money. “That’s like saying because more rich people live in California and New York compared to Mississippi and New Mexico, those higher-income states should be able to keep more federal dollars raised from income taxes. Royalty revenue sharing is patently unfair – especially because the disaster in Gulf shows that an oil spill does not respect state boundaries.

It leaves clean energy development to the free market, while retaining supports for coal and nuclear power

  • Section 1604 states that “voluntary” renewable energy markets are “efficient and effective programs”
  • Section 1431 will provide valuable emissions allowances for free to coal utilities pursuing “carbon capture and storage” or CCS – an untested, risky strategy that benefits the coal industry and is gobbling up a lion’s share of subsidies that otherwise could go to renewable energy development.
  • Section 1412 establishes a carbon tax paid by ratepayers and collected by utilities to fund CCS  with no money allocated to rooftop solar or energy efficiency investments.

Failure to build in consumer protections

  • Rather than follow President Barack Obama’s cap-and-dividend plan, which would require polluters to pay and then distribute 80 percent of the money directly to families through a tax credit, or the Cantwell-Collins CLEAR Act, which calls for distributing monthly checks to households from carbon fee money, the Kerry-Lieberman approach leaves industry in charge of any public payback. Their plan involves distributing valuable free (carbon pollution) allowances to utilities from 2013-2029, then requiring that utilities use the money “exclusively for the benefit of the ratepayers.” Without Congress won’t be defining “benefit”,  50 different state utility commissions will have to — and most would allow utilities to structure energy efficiency programs that benefit shareholders more than consumers.

The Kerry-Lieberman bill, concluded Slocum, “represents a missed opportunity”.

“By meeting behind closed doors, the lawmakers empowered corporate polluters to play an oversized role in influencing the legislation to the detriment of the climate and consumers. President Obama had it right when he successfully campaigned on a theme of making polluters pay and delivering benefits directly to households.”

Feb 162010

From Green Right Now Reports

Call it the Texas two-step.

Just after Texas Governor Rick Perry filed a lawsuit against the EPA on Tuesday, questioning the federal agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, Texas environmental groups parried back.

Texas’ Public Citizen and the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club announced they were issuing Perry a citizen citation to “cease and desist endangering the health of breathers, the economy and the climate in Texas by continuing to permit coal plants and other large sources of CO2.”

The groups explained in a joint news release from Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office, and Ken Kramer, director of the Lone Star Sierra Chapter:

“This morning, Gov. Rick Perry attempted to show Texas voters that he is bigger than both Texas and federal law by filing a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger public health. Instead, he just further highlighted his failure to protect Texans’ health and the safety and long-term stability of our economy and climate.

“Instead of suing the EPA, Perry should be taking proactive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build up our clean energy economy. Perry likes to brag about his accomplishments in promoting wind and energy efficiency and the emissions Texas has avoided as a result, but he is also hammering through a second Texas coal rush that will negate all that hard work and add 77 million tons of CO2 to Texas’ already overheated air.”

The statement argued that Texas law requires the regulation of air pollution, defined as “air contaminants” in Texas state code.

These contaminants, according to Texas’ Health and Safety Code, include “radioactive material, dust, fumes, gas, mist, smoke, vapor, or odor, including any combination of those items, produced by processes other than natural.”

“Perry has proudly demonstrated willful ignorance of this portion of Texas law time and time again, and has ordered state agencies such as the TCEQ to ignore it as well,” the two environmental leaders said.

For more on the petition filed by Texas against the EPA see Texas challenges EPA’s designation of greenhouse gases as harmful.

Mar 242009

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Environmentalists, community activists and some state legislators are calling for a temporary moratorium on coal plants in Texas, where 12 coal-fired power plants are proposed.

The opponents gathered at the capitol in Austin on Tuesday, saying that halting construction of the plants would help fight climate change and protect the health of local communities by cutting out coal’s toxic wastes and emissions, according to advocacy group Public Citizen.

“The evidence is now abundantly clear: Climate change is already affecting Texans and impacts will only increase in severity if we fail to act quickly. Texas already leads the nation in global warming gases. If we were our own country, Texas would rank eighth in the world among carbon emitters,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, in a press release.

“If all 12 of our proposed coal and pet-coke fired power plants were built, Texas would emit an additional 77 million tons of carbon dioxide,” Smith said, adding that capturing 90 percent of those emissions through a process known as “carbon sequestration” is  ”feasible with current technologies.”

The problem with carbon sequestration has been that existing coal operations find the technology too expensive, and consequently, there are no such “clean coal” operations.

Activists in Texas are targeting proposed new coal plants (and pet-coke plants which burn a byproduct of oil refining) because they’d like the state to hold them to a higher standard.

Two legislators have proposed bills that would require coal companies to ante up for sequestration. Each bill – Senate Bill 126, by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, and its companion bill in the house, House Bill 4384 by Rep. Allen Vaught — would place a temporary moratorium on coal-fired power plants that lack carbon “capture and sequestration” technology.

Among those opposing new coal plants that operate in the same way as existing “dirty” plants, are many health advocates. Robert M. Malina, Ph.D, a Bay City resident representing a group opposing the White Stallion pet-coke plant, says lead- and mercury-laced coal pollution takes a heavy toll on the human body, even before one considers its impact on global warming.

“My main concern is the potential influence of emissions from these coal-fired plants on childhood development. Our children are our future and their health and well-being should not be compromised. Both mercury and lead cause irreversible mental and physical health problems in children,” Malina said in the Public Citizen news release.

“What’s more, elevated mortality from lung cancer and increased prevalence of asthma are associated with coal-fired power plants emitting sulfur dioxide, nitrous dioxide and particulate matter. Everyone living near these plants or within reach of prevailing winds will be subjected to these health risks.”

The White Stallion Energy Center website touts the new plant as having “the most environmentally advanced, cleanest, commercially proven, emission lowering technology available”. The plant could supply energy for 650,000 homes and would be “much cleaner” than older generation coal plants, the website reports.

Another supporter of a Texas coal plant moratorium, Roger Landress, represents the Clean Economy Coalition of Corpus Christi, which opposes the Las Brisas Power Plant slated to be built in the Corpus Christi Bay.

The plant, which was the subject of a protest march in February, has “no plans to sequester the 10.4 million tons of carbon dioxide it proposes to put into the atmosphere each year, (and) will almost double the EPA regulated air pollutants in our city,” Landress said.

“Corpus Christi is already dealing with the environmental and health effects of being a refining town and this addition would likely push our county into non-attainment for ozone and sulfur dioxide,” he added.

For more information on pending coal plants in Texas or any state, see the Sierra Club’s coal plant directory.

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