Protesters pan Perry plan on coal plants

Protesters pan Perry plan on coal plants

Saturday, August 26th 2006

About 70 protesters denounced Gov. Rick Perry’s plan to speed approval for coal-burning power plants at a Capitol rally Friday, trying to push the issue into the governor’s re-election race.

Democrat Chris Bell told the crowd that the state deserves a governor who will not mortgage its future health “to benefit a few professional polluters who write big campaign checks.”

In October, Mr. Perry signed an executive order that cut the length of the permitting process for 16 proposed coal-fired plants. Environmentalists, waving signs that read, “No More Dirty Coal,” said such plants would in one year add 4,000 pounds of toxic mercury and emit more greenhouse gases than 20 million cars.

Dallas-based TXU is seeking permits for 11 of the new coal plants, saying they are necessary to meet the state’s future energy needs.

Even with the new plants, TXU has said that it will cut overall emissions by 20 percent. Kim Morgan, a spokeswoman for TXU, said the company is committed to the cut.

Mr. Bell said that asthma cases among Texas children have increased 76 percent since 2003, which he attributed to increased air pollution.

“Nearly two-thirds of Texans live in places so polluted that merely breathing the air can make you sick,” Mr. Bell said, citing the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for dirty air.

“Either Rick Perry doesn’t get it, or he doesn’t care,” Mr. Bell said.

Robert Black, a spokesman for Mr. Perry’s campaign, said the governor has a strong record on the environment, which includes making Texas the leading producer of wind energy.

“Texas has the cleanest coal-burning plants in the nation,” he said. “All Texans can appreciate a governor trying to increase the capacity of Texas energy production when it’s 110 degrees out and our production is being stretched.”

Representatives from independent candidates Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Strayhorn also addressed the group, both saying they would halt the rush to permit more coal-burning plants.

© 2006 The Dallas Morning News Co.

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