MAYOR MILLER TO CLEAN AIR BY HERSELF IF SHE HAS TO

But she probably won’t have to. In response to yesterday’s troubling story about the state considering 16 new coal plants “upwind,” as the DMN says, of D-FW, Miller has united with Houston Mayor Bill White to fight the plants. She’s sent out a memo to 50 mayors asking each for a pledge of $10,000 to hire a law firm that would appear before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The law firm could provide TCEQ, according to the memo, with “expert testimony and sworn depositions of fact.” Miller says she isn’t looking to deny the plants’ permits. Just make sure TCEQ considers cleaner-burning fuels, like coal gasification. After the jump, Miller’s memo in full, thanks to a government-working FBvian.

Update: Frank Librio, Miller’s chief of staff, said Her Honor sent the memo last Thursday, July 6, before the DMN story but after she’d attended a clean-air summit with Arlington Mayor Bob Cluck, which is mentioned after the jump.

To: URGENT REQUEST TO TEXAS MAYORS
From: Dallas Mayor Laura Miller
Re: Proposed new Texas coal plants

Last Friday, Mayor Robert Cluck of Arlington held a meeting with a group of Texas mayors at UT-Arlington.

The purpose of the meeting was to organize a new group called Texas Cities for Climate Protection, with the help of a national group called ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability USA, based in California.

We received presentations on global warming, Best Practices for cities on various environmental issues, and an issue overview from Richard Greene, Regional Director of the EPA. [ed. note: Must have been one scary meeting, because it was closed to the public.]

One urgent issue we discussed is the current request by seven different electric utility companies to build 17 coal-burning power plants in Texas. As you know, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is currently reviewing the utility companies’ permit requests to build these plants.

The environmental consequence of building coal-burning plants has become a national issue. In Texas, according to environmental groups engaged in the issue, the 17 additional coal plants would add 30,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, over 115 million tons of CO(2), and nearly 4,000 pounds of toxic mercury each year.

I have begun calling all of you on this email list to ask you to band together, as a group of concerned Texas cities, to intervene on this case before the TCEQ. There is one opportunity to do this, which will occur in the next 90 days when the TCEQ opens up the permit process for a second round of public comment. (The first round of public comment has already occurred, and while the City of Dallas provided comments to TCEQ about its concerns, we did not formally intervene in the case.)

Formal intervention means providing the TCEQ with thoughtful alternatives, expert testimony, and sworn depositions of fact. This can be done, with the help of outside consultants who do this for a living, at an estimated cost of $300,000 to $500,000.

It’s important to stress here that WE ARE NOT ASKING THE STATE TO DENY THE PERMITS. We know that the utility companies need to provide more electricity for people, and we know that they need to build more power plants to do that. But there are companies outside Texas that are using more modern, cleaner technologies than coal-burning to do it. And we would simply like to research this thoroughly and present all the alternatives to the TCEQ for its consideration. (Coal gasification, for example, is the cleanest technology available and could cut emissions by 60-90 percent, yet in a December ruling the TCEQ said Texas utility companies do not have to consider this option.)

What I am asking in this email is for your city to agree to participate in a formal intervention as a group. Our goal is to get 40 cities to act jointly as one intervener, with each city’s participation level at $10,000 each to cover the cost.

Mayor Bill White of Houston has agreed to spearhead this effort.

The City of Dallas and the City of Houston will do the upfront legwork and organizational work, including the hiring of the consultants on behalf of the group. We anticipate that each city would pay the consultants directly, once we establish the total cost (an individual city’s cost is capped at $10,000, but if more money is needed, we would appeal to the state’s 10 largest cities for additional help).

We would like to have the 40 cities (or more, which would bring down everyone’s cost share) committed by the end of July (at the latest) so that we can move quickly should the TCEQ open up another comment period that would enable us to intervene. This is a complicated, sensitive topic, and we need to prepare.

Attached is a short white paper summarizing the issue. It was prepared by the Dallas City Attorney’s Office. Many of you I reached by phone today said you had City Council meetings next week, or the week after — please post an item for discussion on this topic, and get us an answer. Houston and Dallas are committed and ready to proceed.

So far none of you has said no. We appreciate that.

Most of the proposed coal plants are in East Texas. With established wind patterns, those emissions are headed straight for North Texas, especially the six counties around DFW. How can DFW, which is a significant non-attainment area, possibly clean up the air when 17 new coal-burning power plants are on the drawing board and the smoke headed our way?

But this is not simply a North Texas/East Texas problem. Our air is your air. And as we now know from the significant climate changes we are seeing around the globe, we are all in this together. And our constituents are worried.

At the worst, the TCEQ will approve the permits as submitted. But at least our voices would have been heard during this process, and with any luck, we might just get some of these plants upgraded to a cleaner technology. We will also be organized, statewide, for the first time on environmental issues — and ready to speak with one voice in the next battle, no matter where it is in Texas.

Three facts to remember:

– 17 of 124 coal-fired plants planned in the U.S. propose to use gasification (none in Texas)
– In Texas, power plants emit more pollution than chemical and refining plants combined.
– Texas power plants contribute a full 10 percent of the total mercury admissions in the U.S. (Mercury is a toxic heavy metal which can cause neurological damage, particularly in developing fetuses, infants, and children.)

Let’s band together and let our constituents know we are concerned about their health and welfare.

Please email or call my Chief of Staff, Frank Librio, no later than July 31 and let us know if you are willing to join this first effort of the Texas Citizens for Climate Protection.

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