Group launches Coal is Filthy ads against TXU plan

Group launches Coal is Filthy ads against TXU plan

Dirty, gritty faces stared out from the ads in Texas major newspapers for the past two days declaring that “Coal is Filthy” and urging people to oppose TXU Corp.’s proposal to build 11 coal-fired electric plants.

The ads looked like they were placed by two well-known environmental groups to promote an anti-coal plant rally this weekend.

But the ads were placed anonymously by a two-week-old group called the Texas Clean Sky Coalition. Only one of the nation’s largest gas producers, Chesapeake Energy Corp., acknowledged helping finance the advertising campaign ”” which easily cost several hundred thousand dollars.

The group’s Web site contained links to the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and to the Texas office of the Environmental Defense Fund. Both groups said they were surprised by the ads and had nothing to do with them.

“I honestly know nothing about it,” said Ken Kramer, director of the state Sierra Club. “I’ve never heard of the Clean Sky Coalition or know who’s behind these ads.”

Kramer said he once placed a full-page ad in a newspaper, and it cost him $26,000.

The Clean Sky Coalition had full-page ads and several smaller ads in six major Texas papers, including the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, on Sunday and Monday.

Environmental Defense state director Jim Marston said he was happy to see “another loud voice” opposing the proposed coal plants, but he was afraid “readers might infer” that his organization was part of the group placing the ads.

Spokesman Colin Rowan said Environmental Defense didn’t know the ads were running until they appeared in the papers.

Jackson Williams is the executive director of the Texas Clean Sky Coalition. He declined to say who paid for the ads, other than that it was a “diverse” group of businesses.

“I’ve got everything from a chain of car washes to restaurants,” Williams said. “There’s some energy companies, too.”

Williams said his coalition is not promoting any alternatives to coal-fired plants. He said the group just wants to stop the TXU plants from being built.

“There is no hidden agenda here,” Williams said.

Late in the day, Chesapeake Energy acknowledged being part of the coalition. Chesapeake is the nation’s third largest producer of natural gas.

Chesapeake spokesman Thomas S. Price said he did not know how much money the company donated to the advertising campaign.

Price said natural gas, which is widely produced across Texas and causes less pollution than standard coal plants, is a better choice for the environment and the state’s economy. While more expensive than coal, natural gas’ benefits make it a “premium fuel” that’s worth the extra cost, Price said.

Oklahoma-based Chesapeake is a politically connected company. Its board of directors includes former Gov. Frank Keating and former U.S. Sen. Donald Nickles. Both are Oklahoma Republicans.

TXU claims the western coal that it will use in the plants will be clean burning and that modern technology will diminish some of the pollution.

TXU spokeswoman Kimberly Morgan said the ad’s dirty faces were misleading.

“Because the facts are not on their side, it seems these groups have resorted to staged, misleading images as tactics to scare the public,” Morgan said.


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