Coal War Update

Charles "Doc" Anderson launches legislative attack against proposed coal-fired power plants, efficiency practices report, and more

GOP Rep. Charles Doc Anderson is on the war path.
GOP Rep. Charles "Doc" Anderson is on the war path.

In this dispatch from the trenches of the coal wars, we'll see a Republican who's crossed party lines to launch countermeasures against the proposed 17 new, yet technologically dated, coal plants, and we'll get briefed on a new study demonstrating how aggressive energy efficiency can eliminate the need for new coal plants. Meanwhile, the anti-coal infantry is planning to peacefully occupy the state Capitol this Sunday and Monday.

With the Waco area surrounded by nine of the 17 proposed plants, local GOP Rep. Charles "Doc" Anderson has launched a legislative attack against the plants, filing House Concurrent Resolution 43 on Jan. 24, asking the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to put a 180-day moratorium on approving plant permits. Said Anderson, "We must look at the cumulative effect on our environment. We need to buy time for our affected cities, counties, and citizens to have their voices heard. These people expect me to represent them, and that's exactly what I plan to do … and we certainly don't want to let Central Texas become a non-attainment area because of the tremendous detrimental effects on our health, quality of life, and economic development," especially when there's "not currently an electrical generating capacity crisis in Texas." At press time, HCR 43 hadn't been referred to committee yet, according to Anderson staffer Matt Welch, who added that Waco's City Council, Commissioners Court, and Chamber of Commerce support the measure.

Suggesting that the coal plants are the wrong technology at the wrong time in the wrong state, a new report by energy-efficiency planning firm Optimal Energy Inc., green-leaning investment firm Ceres, and the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, entitled Power to Save, argues that demand-reduction measures can meet Texas' electricity needs more reliably, at a lower cost, and at a tremendous net economic benefit compared to the proposed coal plants. They argue that by investing $11 billion in proven efficiency practices and policies, Texas would reap net benefits of $38 billion, compared to the $10 billion price tag on TXU's 11 coal plants alone. Here's how they propose to do it:

Increase the state's requirement that utilities offset 10% of new demand growth with energy efficiency to at least 50% (currently proposed at the Lege) and preferably to 75%;

Bring all utility efficiency efforts in line with the city of Austin, which spends 3% of revenue on efficiency and seeks 15% energy savings from efficiency by 2020 (which alone would meet more than one-third of Texas' new load growth);

Adopt higher efficiency standards for appliances, office equipment, and heating and cooling systems;

Update commercial and residential building codes to at least 15% above current mandates;

Require the Public Utility Commission to review the potential for energy efficiency and demand-side management, and update efficiency goals and programs every two years.

And here are the benefits:

Eliminate 80% of forecasted electricity demand growth, while lowering consumers' energy bills and decreasing total demand to 9% below current levels by 2021;

Provide $49 billion in economic benefits over the next 15 years, resulting in lower electricity bills for customers and reduced spending by utilities;

Prevent 52 million metric tons a year of carbon-dioxide emissions by 2021 – equivalent to the annual emissions of 10 million cars.

With the State Office of Admin-istrative Hearings about to touch off the powder keg that this month's coal plant contested case hearings will surely be, there's no sign that the fog (or smog) of this coal war will lift any time soon – and things will certainly get bloody if HCR 43 makes it to the House floor.

On a peaceful note, a coalition of more than 40 groups, led by the Sierra Club, plans to hold a musical Stop the Coal Rush rally at 3pm Sunday, Feb. 11, on the south steps of the Capitol, followed by Citizen Lobby Day, 9am-2pm Monday, Feb. 12, at the Capitol, both in support of HRC 43. For more info, see www.stopthecoalrush.com; for the Power to Save report, see www.ceres.org/pub.


STOP THE COAL RUSH Unless, of course, you want to offset all of the global-warming emissions reductions California recently adopted. And unless you like that autism increases 17% for every 1,000 pounds of mercury pollution in Texas. And unless you enjoy it when companies like Toyota and Boeing reject us because of our poor air quality. But if you're not so hot on any of those things, here are some ways you can help stop the current fast-tracking of 19 coal-plant permits in Texas: 1) Attend Sunday's rally, 3pm, Feb. 11, Texas state Capitol, 1100 Congress. 2) Go to Sunday's Lobby Training Session & Dinner, 6-8pm (location to be announced). 3) Participate in the Citizen Lobby Day at the Capitol, Monday, Feb. 12. Register at www.stopthecoalrush.com. 476-2052.

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