Business Leaders Hire Lobbyists to Battle Dirty Coal

Coalition of free-market well-to-dos formed to oppose Texas' 17 proposed pulverized coal power plants fights electric utilities using their own weapon of choice – lobbyists

The founders of the Dallas-based Texas Business for Clean Air, an unlikely coalition of free-market well-to-dos formed to oppose Texas' 17 proposed pulverized coal power plants, paid a visit to Austin last week. Co-founder David Litman, the father of Hotels.com, argues that utilities' coal proposals, especially those of TXU (proposing 11 plants), don't reflect the plants' true costs, which will "go out the smokestacks and into the lungs of our workers and their children," exacerbating federal air-quality nonattainment status in places like Dallas and Houston and choking off growth statewide. "Bottom line, it's bad for business," Litman said.

Last fall he joined with Dallas real estate mogul Trammell Crow and Container Store co-founder Garrett Boone to start TBCA, and they've aimed to fight the utilities using their own weapon of choice – lobbyists. Boone joked that between 40 and 60 of the lobbyists the group contacted prior to the legislative session were either directly engaged by or had a conflict of interest with TXU. One of Crow Holdings' own lobbyists had a TXU conflict, Crow said. TXU listed 58 paid lobbyists on a recent Texas Ethics Commission report.

According to Boone, the TBCA's business-perspective beef with the coal plants is based on a number of unanswered questions, such as the plants' cumulative impact on air-quality attainment, their health-care costs, and their effect on the area's ability to attract the best and brightest employees and industries. Litman noted that Toyota and Boeing have already declined to locate near Dallas, as it struggles to reform its air quality. With the world watching Texas' critical coal decisions, Boone said building the plants could solidify the state's reputation as a backwater when it comes to energy policy.

The TBCA and its three lobbyists are working to propose solutions both for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the state's Public Utility Commission, Boone said. He explained that the group favors "maximizing energy efficiency and renewable energy and using coal as judiciously as possible with the best available emissions control technology." He added, "We must take advantage of this time of rapidly advancing technology. It's a bad business decision to lock into old technology now."


TBCA's Austin Roster

The Texas Business for Clean Air coalition has recently added some prominent Austinites to its membership roster. Some of its Austin members include: Robert Ayres of Shield Ranch, Sandy Gottesman of Gottesman Co. real estate, Christopher Harte of Harte Hanks media and the Cerrito Group, Lowell Lebermann of Centex Beverage, Perry Lorenz of Spring Austin Partners Inc., Bill McLellan of Treaty Oak Bank, Robert Turner of Wentworth Capital Advisors TBCA, and Paul Rogge, Jon Schoolar, and Chico Korth of Rogge Capital Management. – D.M.


Related events

The First UU Public Forums series presents the Texas Coal Plants Controversy, a talk from Public Citizen's Tom "Smitty" Smith and the SEED's Karen Hadden, 11:30am-12:30pm, Sunday, Feb. 25, at First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover. Free. 452-6168. www.austinuu.org.

The Rising Tide Spring 2007 Roadshow presents the struggles of communities around the world that have resisted the fossil-fuel industry. Wednesday, Feb. 28, 8pm. MonkeyWrench Books, 110 E. North Loop. 407-6925. www.risingtidenorthamerica.org.

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