Thursday, January 25, 2007

Around the horn: TXU ramps up lobbying effort, and more on coal, pollution and money

We are hearing that TXU, the power company seeking to build all those conventional coal-burning power plants in Texas, is going door-to-door in the Senate, trying to secure a “grandfather” status for those plants when it comes to global warming emissions. TXU wants to nuke (sorry – wrong word!) any effort in Congress to restrict free credits or allowances for those facilities. As you’ll recall, the legislation introduced last week by Senators Feinstein and Carper would do exactly that, and we expect other proposed legislation will attempt the same.

Start following the money, because you can bet those visits will be followed up with campaign contributions! (According to the Center for Responsive Politics, TXU contributed in the last election cycle to such senators as Inhofe, DeMint, Vitter, Bingaman and Thomas. See www.opensecrets.org for more. )

And money, of course, is the root of the issue: any credits that TXU gets will come out of the hide of other power company customers. TXU’s gain would be their loss.

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This lobbying blitz happens as TXU made some headlines in Texas by disclosing in a deposition that even though it intended to reduce overall conventional pollution from its fleet of power plants--- that they might sell the resulting “credits” elsewhere. An editorial in today’s Dallas Morning News bemoans this development:

The fact that a large corporation is trying to maximize profits comes as no surprise. But the details of the deposition confirm our oft-stated fears about the consequences of allowing an unprecedented expansion of polluting power plants.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/editorials/stories/DN-txu_25edi.ART.State.Edition1.29f94c9.html

A courageous Texas lawmaker filed a resolution yesterday that would halt new coal plant permits for six months. It seems like a timeout of this sort is in order.

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Mercury control cost less than anticipated, according to a new Department of Energy analysis reported in Environmental Science & Technology:

The new report, published today on ES&T’s Research ASAP website (DOI: 10.1021/es0617340), focuses on a well-known technology, activated carbon injection (ACI), and has sparked interest from electric utilities and environmental advocates who sparred over EPA’s Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) when it was released in 2005.
“The clock is ticking for U.S. coal-fired power plants,” in terms of developing the most effective strategies for responding to CAMR, writes Thomas Feeley and coauthors at DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Coal-fired plants are the largest single source of mercury emissions nationally and emit 48 tons (t) of mercury annually, according to DOE.

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