Abilenians Against TENASKA

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By Joe Starkey | July 1, 2010

Editors Note: Joe Starkey and his family have property next to the proposed Tenaska location. Starkey’s south fence is Tenaska’s north fence.www.saveabilenewater.com is the website to go to for more information about the efforts of many Abilenians to keep the City Council from selling our needed water to this Nebraska company on a contract for 50 years. This article is reportage of several events that took place in late May and the month of June.{{more}}The first event was to be a town hall meeting monitored by Mrs. Laura Blackburn of the State Women’s Voter League. Four people from TENASKA were invited more than two weeks before the event. NONE managed to come and none could provide a substitute. She expressed disappointment that they felt it was not necessary to come before the people of Dr. Jeff Hasseltine, Photo by Joe StarkeyAbilene to present their position and answer questions. The meeting then opened with Dr. Jeff Hasseltine reading the TENASKA position from their 2008 application. They claim they will capture 85 – 90 % of the CO2 for sale to the Permian Basin for use in oil recovery or store it underground on site. They propose dry cooling – if possible. Neither of those goals is in their request for air pollution permit. Next to speak was Dr. Neil Carmen. He spent 12 years with TEQC in their enforcement branch and stated that many of the permits issued by Austin had serious flaws but Austin would just tell them that it was now an enforcement problem. He worried that the current permit allowed over 22 million pounds of Pollutants and toxins every year the plant is in operation. This plant will emit almost 1 million grams of lead particles each year. Lead particles cause lowered IQs in children and the Federal Standard is 1/millionth of a gram. Over a 1% increase sends more people to the Doctor/emergency room with breathing problems and heart attacks. He informed those present that there will be no Base Line Health Study before or after the plant is built. Also the start up emissions are not monitored or counted in the total amount put out by the plant but are known to be several times the operating levels.Ryan Rittenhouse gave background on Texas and coal plants. Currently Texas has 17 plants operating which is the most in the US. Public opinion has stopped 8 of 11 TXU plants. However 13 are newly proposed. Texas has 13 lakes and reservoirs that are under restrictions on fishing and drinking the water and ALL 13 are located by coal plants. 74% of the mercury in Texas was emitted by coal plants.Dr. Jim Cooke of ACU Environmental Sciences said the solution to pollution is NOT TO POLLUTE. Dr. John Starkey who lives immediately north of the proposed plant asked who will pay for my home when this plant starts and my health problems require me to move? Ryan Rittenhouse answered from the Anti-TENASKA side of the panel “Nobody”.City Council members Robert Briley, Stormy Higgins and Kelly Miller attended the meeting. Robert stood in response to a question and informed the crowd of almost a 100 people that the City Council and its members were under several restrictions. First was that if one more member walked in – They would have a quorum and illegally be having an official meeting which would subject each to severe penalties. Also they were only able to attend to gather information and by law were unable to answer questions or present positions. One piece of information they received was that the nuclear plant downstream from Abilene was putting in two new units and would receive an increased requirement for the water that goes thru Abilene and decrease the amount available to sell to TENASKA.Dr. Carmen from the panel stated that Texas politics and regulatory agencies are favorable to industry. “Coal plants feel they can steamroll the small populations of WestSpeaker that stated “Absurd to sell water with known cycle of draught” Photo by Joe Starkey Texas”. The first speaker from the public stated “It’s absurd to sign a 50 year contract with our known cycle of draught. Ms. Elaine Starkey asked the panel if the taking law of 1995 would keep Abilene/TENASKA from taking our land to dump toxins on by permit. No one could answer that. Next person up started with “NOT ONE DROP!” and asked if the people in Sweetwater realized that Bill 456 says the plant is exempt from all local property taxes? Mr. Ed Ansor expressed disappointment that TENASKA failed to show since they are the ones asking for our water. He wondered if they would accept a contract that put Abilene first in line for water. The panel answered that the Electrical Reliability Corporation of Texas can trump any contract to keep the plant running. Ryan Rittenhouse stated the only way to keep ERCOT from requiring more water is to have NO CONTRACT. Another member of the panel informed us of an EPA study that showed EVERY coal plant had two radioactive hot spots – the coal pile and the ash pile.Mr. Charles Cody said that what he heard tonight “scared the hell out of me”. He praised the City Council members for coming so they can take the information back to the Mr. Charles Cody. Photo by Joe Starkeyrest of the members. He gave a history of the use of effluent water. Back in the early 1990s, Abilene produced about 18 million gallons but 8-10 million gallons of that were required to go downstream. He started the system to use effluent water and then others such as the Universities also took some. This made Lake Kirby go dry until the city started using Kirby Lake as a backup for storage of this water. He estimated that selling water to TENASKA would both result in Lake Kirby going dry again and some of the current users not getting water. Larry Millar organized a powerful publicity drive during the Artwalk. He wore a sandwich board sign apparatus and a bumper sticker hat and worked the streets with petition in hand, despite the heat. He gathered dozens of signatures and handed out piles of bumper stickers. Meanwhile, he and Rogers Dennis had set up a nice table with fancy hand-painted signs for information and stickers. Rogers and Chuck Neal and Jim Cooke braved the hot, hot sun to maintain the information table and collect signatures, etc. Whitney Root and Jeff Haseltine also patrolled the streets with bumper stickers. We even had a chance to offer one to Mayor Archibald, but he wasn’t ready to take it–yet .This spur-of-the-moment campaign was put together by Larry, along with help from a few others who jumped in. That’s the kind of effort that will make a difference. Remember, this is entirely a grass-roots effort here in Abilene. We should all feel free to take the initiative on whatever actions we think will get the word out.Great work, Larry!!June 22nd saw a “Come and Go” rally at the main Public Library. My count was approximately 125 people came during the two hours. At one time there were over 75 present looking at tables of information about the request for Abilene water. Tables were set up for information, to sign the petition to the City Council to deny TENASKA’s request for water, and one was set up with computers so peopleMrs. Carolyn Cockerel shows her support. Photo by Joe Starkey could write personal letters to members of the City Council expressing their opinion on giving TENASKA our needed water. Over 100 lawn signs were given out to be put up all around the city. You can tell my truck when it’s parked because I’m using two of them as sun shades to help get out the message. You can help by contacting the saveabilenewater.com web site and requesting your own sign and signing the petition to the City Council.The short version of this message is that Abilene cannot afford to sell two million gallons of water a day to a polluter. This plant will affect the health of our children and elderly. It will take transmission line time from the clean wind towers and cost local residents the revenue they would get from leasing their land to the wind companies.The City Council will have a meeting/workshop on July 29th, 2010 at the Civic Center starting at 5 PM. TENASKA will be there with all their bells and whistles. If you feel strongly about this issue or just really want more information – you should come. It is expected that the public will have longer speaking times than usual so this will be a long meeting. The City Council has not set a date to vote and does not yet have a proposed contract from TENASKA. Be there or be dry when they take our water.People discussing information for the public.Photo by Joe Starkey