Monday, February 26, 2007

Enviros Claim "Historic" Victory In Texas Utility Fight

Feb 26: The national environmental organization Environmental Defense issued a release saying that it helped to negotiate an aggressive environmental platform as part of the deal involving Texas Pacific Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. who are seeking to acquire Texas-based energy giant TXU Corporation. Environmental Defense has been a major player in an effort to stop TXU Corporation from implementing plans to build 11 old-style coal-fired power plants throughout Central and Northeast Texas.

Environmental Defense said, "Today is a truly historic day in the fight against global warming." As part of the sale agreement, among other things the new company would: terminate plans for the construction of 8 of 11 coal-fired power plants TXU had hoped to build; stop TXU's plans to expand coal operations in other states; endorse the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) platform, including the call for a mandatory Federal cap on carbon emissions; and reduce the company's carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 [See WIMS 1/22/07 & WIMS 2/13/07].

Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense issued a statement saying, "The story behind today's announcement began last April when TXU announced alarming plans to build 11 dirty coal-fired power plants in Texas. From the start, most business and political experts considered it a done deal. Texas Governor Rick Perry got personally involved, fast-tracking the permits and declaring "we're not going to let these bureaucrats jerk us around." Even our own experts in our Texas office considered the odds of stopping the plants as remote, at best.

"But the size of the proposal left us no choice but to aggressively oppose the plants. The 11 coal-fired plants would spew 78 million tons of global warming pollution per year, more than twice the expected carbon reductions from the historic California Clean Cars legislation. So, Environmental Defense mobilized an all-out grassroots campaign targeting TXU and Texas Governor Rick Perry. Nearly 50,000 Environmental Defense members and activists took action, sending emails, attending public hearings across Texas and submitting public comments against the plants. More than 50 community and environmental groups signed on to our letter urging TXU to change its course.

"We took out television, billboard and online ads. We reached out to allies in the Texas state legislature and we worked the legal and financial angles to keep the pressure on TXU. Our efforts were designed to achieve three goals: Stop as many of the plants as possible; Prevent TXU from exporting its coal plant build-out to other states; and Send a national message to other utility companies that the TXU plan is one they should reject."

According to a detailed account of the negotiations published in the New York Times, the deal was brokered through William K. Reilly, the former administrator for U.S. EPA under President George H. W. Bush, who works for Texas Pacific Group. TXU announced this morning that its board had approved the buyout bid for about $45 billion -- the largest in history.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), who was also involved in the negotiations issued a on Saturday, February 24. David Hawkins, a former top EPA official with more than 35 years experience in utility environmental issues, who heads NRDC’s Climate Center said, “What we’re witnessing is the beginning of the end of investments in old-fashioned coal plants. These are very big investors coming to the energy table with very big ideas about where the competitive market is heading. Strategies to fight global warming and save energy are crucial for anyone hoping to succeed in today’s electricity industry.”

Access a release from Environmental Defense that links to a breaking news story in the New York Times (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access the StopTXU website (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]