don’t flip that switch!

This is the week my second major story on CPS hit the street. When I took them on a year ago the challenge was tied to climate security concerns: The promises of decentralization and pitfalls of nuke overlooks. My split with CPS Energy plans was based on economic argument and generation-scale health and safety issues.

Up In Smoke/Hot Wired, this week’s follow-up, has nothing to do with coal-versus-nukes-versus-solar or anything to do with big plants with long wires as opposed to increasing opportunities for on-site power generation (though I still strongly advocate for the later). It simply chronicles the widespread failure of management to run a safe, humane workplace.

It has been hard to gauge the most troubling practices that leaked their way to my ears. Some of the information I received (including the utility-wide survey) has been available to the San Antonio City Council for months. The rest of it Councilmembers could have found by simply checking in with workers and asking some not necessarily consistently intelligible questions, as many would suggest I did.

That’s one of my personal concerns. Since, it appears City leaders (apart from, perhaps, Councilmember Philip Cortez who sought to make a media field day of his “investigation” into conditions at the utility) have chosen to do neither.

It’s unclear whether they were actively trying to protect their money-maker CPS or if they could have been responding to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who reported recently that negotiations on several of their differences may be getting addressed by CPS’s lawyers and Veeps.

This will surely clear up in the coming weeks — as long as San Antonio residents push for the information.

One item I haven’t been able to confirm from the road as I travel across the state is if CPS has agreed to hire on more contract meter readers. That would be nice. However, I would much rather know how they are going to address the incredibly sorry shape of our grid security. These gaping “blind spots” that have opened up due to poor transitional changes in the mapping department not only make linemen and crew members more vulnerable, but jeopardize the security of San Antonio’s business and residential communities.

It’d be on my mind if I were, say, U.S. Homeland Security busily scouting the town out for proposed massive federal germ lab. And it’d be on my mind if I were a San Antonian worried about U.S. Homeland Security busily scouting the town out for a massive federal germ lab (as they are, btw).

On the subject of bioterror and Homeland, you may want to attend this week’s hearing on the topic, as Queque suggests. Those of you who read this blog already know how I feel about it.

Some other events you may take interest in:

A. If you know anyone respiratorily affected in H-Town.


National Advocacy Group and Local Environmental Group Outraged at Valero’s “Extreme Insensitivity and Irresponsible Behavior”

HOUSTON, TX — Consejo de Latinos Unidos, a national public charity that educates and assists Hispanics and others, announced today that the Consejo and the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (T.E.J.A.S.) will provide a free medical program to victims of yesterday’s early morning blast at the Valero Refinery.

“While Valero was sending its workers for medical screenings after the blast, residents of the Manchester community were absorbing fumes, coughing profusely, and turning ill,” said K.B. Forbes, Executive Director of the Consejo. “Regardless of their public relations mouthpieces, Valero is not a community player. In an emergency situation, Valero has shown extreme insensitivity and irresponsible behavior. Working with T.E.J.A.S., we will provide the needed medical help to the community.”

Juan Parras, a well known and respected environmental activist in Houston who serves as the voluntary Executive Director of T.E.J.A.S. said, “Enough is enough! We all know that Valero and other petrochemical companies are dumping toxins in the air. Valero appears to have simply ignored the medical needs of the working class, low-income families in the Manchester area who live next door to Valero’s refinery and production plant. Inaction by Valero speaks louder than Valero’s sugar-coated words.”

Elizabeth Salgado, a resident of Manchester, drove out of the area shortly after the blast on Monday morning. “My mother was coughing. She couldn’t stop coughing. All I could do was leave the area. Luckily we have insurance but most of the residents in Manchester are uninsured and cannot afford a simple doctor’s visit.”

Residents and victims of the Valero blast who feel ill are encouraged to call Consejo’s national hotline at 1-800-474-7576 or to call T.E.J.A.S. locally at (713) 926-8895.

Consejo has taken on some of largest corporations for abuses against Latinos and helped spur three congressional hearings. The Consejo was profiled on CBS’ 60 Minutes in 2006 for its work against hospital abuses. The organization was founded in 2001 and has provided over $1.7 million in free medical aid since 2003.

B: You’re not tickled about Perry’s plans to double nuke capacity in Texas.

Environmental Groups prepare to tell NRC meeting about Exelon: Nuclear Plants are not the answer – They are Not Safe, Too Risky, Too Expensive, and Not Needed

(Victoria, TX) — A coalition of environmental and consumer groups and their members are preparing to ask tough questions and comment at a public meeting scheduled in Victoria, Texas on August 7th concerning Exelon’s proposal to build a nuclear power plant in the area.

Cyrus Reed of the Sierra Club will comment, “nuclear power takes too long to build, is too expensive, too risky and unsafe. Nuclear power is not the solution to help Texas meet its power needs. There are cheaper, cleaner, and more sustainable energy solutions.”

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is holding a public meeting in response to the announcement by Exelon – currently the United States largest operator of nuclear plants — that the company wants to build a gigantic new double-wide nuclear plant some 12 miles from Victoria using a new, unproven technology known as ESPWR, and about 75,000 acre-feet of water in an area already troubled by recent drought.

“We’ve been down this road before,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The utility industry sold Texas on nuclear power plants at Comanche Peak and the South Texas Project and consumers have been paying the ‘stranded’ costs ever since. Meanwhile, the nuclear industry expends valuable water resources, more destructive uranium mining contaminates South Texas aquifers and mining sites around the world; and radioactive waste piles up on-site at nuclear power plants with no long-term disposal facility.”

Exelon will be talking and listening as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission holds the informational public meeting Thursday evening in Victoria, just miles from the Gulf Coast hurricane territory.

While Exelon has announced their intention to submit an application for the nuclear units in September, the design has yet to be certified and no license application has been received.

Karen Hadden, Executive Director of the Sustainable Energy for Economic Development (SEED) Coalition noted, “It doesn’t make sense to have a public meeting before the license application is available for people to look at. The public needs to know what it is they are commenting on. A license application by another company NRG who want to expand the Matagorda County South Texas Project was so incomplete that the NRC halted their review.”

Missing from the Exelon application, for example, is any idea of the cost involved or even how much water would be needed to run such a plant

Earlier this year, Exelon signed a two-year initial contract with the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority — which would set aside 75,000 acre-feet of water.

“The rush to build new nuclear power plants is simply an attempt to take advantage of federal subsidies while they are available, and then hope to pass the building, operating and decommissioning costs – and any liability from accidents — off on the public,” noted Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “Analysis by both Moody’s and by independent consultants is putting a price tag of $12 to $17 billion for the proposed nuke in South Texas by NRG, and we would expect the Victoria plant to cost even more due to its new unproven design and the increasing rising costs of uranium, steel and cement.”

Karen Hadden explained, “The cost of solar concentrating power plants, solar panels, wind energy, and especially energy efficiency measures has come down and are now more economical than any new nuclear plant. This means that investing in nuclear power with all of the risks of accidents, terrorist attacks and the impossibility of ever being able to deal with radioactive waste is foolhardy and outrageous.”

With the most recent ERCOT projections reporting that Texas’ existing generating capacity will meet its reserve margin needs until at least 2013, the Sierra Club’s Reed said that it makes better sense to invest in energy efficiency, demand response and emerging renewable technologies like wind, solar, geothermal and ways to store energy.

Reed said, “Just last month the Public Utility Commission approved a massive transmission line plan to West Texas that will lead to 18,000 MWs of wind coming on-line within five to 10 years. Exelon should get on board, and also look at the potential for solar and geothermal energy along the Gulf Coast, which on per-kilowatt basis will generate far more jobs than nuclear.

Nuclear itself will take billions of investment and years to complete and will do nothing to help energy costs or meet our present demand – in fact it will likely force prices to go up to pay off the upfront costs.”

The SEED Coalition, Public Citizen and Sierra Club are sponsors of the website, which has additional information on the dangers of nuclear power in Texas.

In the meantime, a new group – the Texans for A Sound Energy Policy Alliance – has also been posting information and questioning the wisdom of the proposed Victoria plant through local billboards, ads and a website,

The NRC will hold the public meeting from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 P.M on this Thursday, August 7th, 2008 at the Victoria Community Center, Dome, 2905 E. North Street.

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