Strayhorn criticizes Perrys plan to speed coal-plant permits

Strayhorn criticizes Perrys plan to speed coal-plant permits

Independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn objected to Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s plan to speed permits for 11 coal-fired plants and called today for stricter rules to fight pollution.

Strayhorn, the state comptroller, said she would order reviews of any permits issued for the plants and “slow the process to rewrite new rules that ensure clean air.”

If elected, she said she would appoint a clean air advocate to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality while reversing the governor’s order to fast-track permits for the plants.

“We first need to look to cleaner-burning natural gas, wind energy, other renewables and energy conservation using the latest technology to meet our electricity needs,” she said while speaking near a public swimming pool in the affluent Dallas enclave of University Park.

Methods such as gasification, in which coal is turned into a combustible gas to generate electricity, are cleaner, Strayhorn said. In the process, carbon dioxide can be captured and used in oil reservoirs.

TXU announced in April that it plans to build 11 new coal-fired plants. It expects to eventually reduce costs by $1.7 billion by using coal instead of more expensive natural gas to produce power. At the same time, the utility pledged to curb key emissions by 20 percent using new technology.

Air quality would suffer in the Dallas and Waco areas, which already must reduce their air pollution, Strayhorn said. According to some reports, the plants would cause annual carbon dioxide emissions to more than double, from 55 million tons to 133 million tons, she said.

However, Perry campaign spokesman Robert Black said the new plants will be 80 percent cleaner than the current national average, even with the added production. They also will bring thousands of jobs to Texas while helping the state’s need for increased power generating capacity, Black said.

“While Carole Strayhorn and other candidates have proposed doing absolutely nothing to increase our energy production … Gov. Perry has been leading in this issue,” he said.

Expediting the plants’ permits doesn’t allow time to formulate plans that protect air quality in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and Longview areas, said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Texas director of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.

“The dark cloud of pollution from these plants won’t hit Texas until after Gov. Perry leaves office, leaving somebody else to clean up the mess he’s made,” Smith said.

Other candidates challenging Perry in the November election previously have brought up the environment. Democrat Chris Bell criticized Perry’s environmental record earlier this month while promoting his own proposal to oversee big polluters.

Today, Bell’s campaign pointed out Strayhorn was speaking against the coal-fired plants while accepting money from power companies. Strayhorn received $43,500 from TXU, the utility’s former chief executive Earl Nye and Centerpoint Energy, according to Texas Ethics Commission records.

“This is a two-person race between Carole Strayhorn’s record and Carole Strayhorn’s rhetoric,” said Bell’s campaign spokesman, Jason Stanford. “You can’t grandstand on such a health care issue without giving the money back.”

The contributions, taken in between 2000 to 2004, were from previous campaigns, said Strayhorn’s campaign manager, Brad McClellan.

“Her positions and her votes weren’t for sale,” McClellan said.

Independent candidate Kinky Friedman toured the Houston area this month to discuss environmental issues with Mothers for Clean Air and the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention.


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