A nuke offer and a guilty plea
By Jordan Smith, Fri., Feb. 4, 2011
NRG Plays Nuke-for-Coal Card
After months of preliminary talks, New Jersey-based NRG Energy has made an official proposal to Austin Energy regarding a nuclear power purchase agreement from the South Texas Project. AE currently owns a 16% share of the plant; NRG owns 44%. NRG and partner Toshiba plan to build two additional nuclear units and have been shopping for customers to buy the power, expected to come online in 2016. Given Austin's notoriously rocky relationship with STP – plagued with cost overruns, delays, and much political discord – NRG presumably faces an uphill battle in courting AE. But to sweeten the deal, NRG has offered to partner with AE on a "renewable project such as wind or solar." Furthermore, NRG proposes to "acquire" from AE a power source rivaling STP in controversy: AE's 50% share in the coal-powered Fayette Power Project. NRG exec Juan Garza says the deal would reduce AE's carbon footprint by 70% and provide capital allowing the utility to delay expected rate increases. But as Public Citizen's Tom "Smitty" Smith points out, while the offer might take the plant off AE's hands, it would not wipe them clean: "We will totally lose control over [FPP], and our ability to reduce generation to prevent pollution episodes or to reduce our carbon footprint will be lost," he said. Meanwhile, he continued, AE could lose out financially in the long run: "We're going to pay and pay and pay on a fixed-price contract regardless of what happens to the electric market." See NRG's full proposal. – Nora Ankrum
Quintana Pleads Guilty to DWI
On Jan. 31, former Austin Police Officer Leonardo Quintana (pictured) pleaded guilty in a Williamson County court to DWI in connection with his drunken-driving arrest one year ago. If all goes according to the plans of Quintana's attorney, former APD Officer Jamie Balagia, Quintana will be sentenced next month to one year of probation and fined $400 in a bargain Balagia has worked out with the state. That is a typical first-offense deal, the county prosecutor told reporters. Quintana is still facing charges in connection with an alleged domestic violence offense in October 2010 at the home of his former fiancée, also an APD officer. Quintana was picked up for the DWI eight months after he shot and killed Nathaniel Sanders II in an East Austin parking lot. While Quintana was cleared by the department of any wrongdoing in the shooting, he still faces a federal civil rights lawsuit connected to the incident. Quintana was eventually fired for the January 2010 drunken-driving arrest, which followed a night out drinking with a group of fellow officers. Quintana won his job back after a civil service arbitration last year; a week later, APD Chief Art Acevedo fired Quintana again, this time in connection with the alleged domestic violence incident. Quintana will again seek reinstatement when his termination yet again goes to arbitration, set for this spring. – Jordan Smith
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