Strayhorn opposes coal power plantsShe faults Perry for speeding permit process; governor's aide defends actions
July 25, 2006
By CLAIRE CUMMINGS / The Dallas Morning News
Independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn said Monday that she opposed the creation of new coal-burning power plants that Dallas-area officials fear will contribute to the area's pollution problem. And she criticized Gov. Rick Perry for speeding up the permitting process for the facilities.
Mrs. Strayhorn said the state should consider alternatives to coal, such as clean-burning natural gas and wind energy, in addition to new technology that would help existing plants produce electricity more efficiently.
"In this 21st century, Texans don't want and need more outdated polluting coal plants crammed down our throats by Rick Perry," said the candidate for governor, appearing near a pool full of splashing children at Curtis Park in University Park. "We need to protect our most precious resource, and that's our children."
Mrs. Strayhorn said that, if elected, she would reverse the governor's executive order to put permits for the plants on a fast track, ask for a review of permits already issued and assign a clean air advocate to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
A Perry campaign aide and a spokesman for TXU Energy, which would build 11 of the 16 proposed plants, both said Texas needs more energy quickly as the state's population grows. Even with the additional coal plants, the company plans to make the air in the northern half of the state 20 percent cleaner than it is today, they said. TXU has not publicly presented details on how it would reach that emission-reduction goal.
The expedited permitting process that cuts public review from one year to six months has been misunderstood, said Robert Black, Mr. Perry's spokesman.
"The only thing that has changed here in this particular process is time," Mr. Black said. "All of the standards and the regulations have remained in place."
But that faster timetable is exactly the problem, said Tom "Smitty" Smith, head of the Texas office of Public Citizen, a watchdog group. He added that the proposed 20 percent reduction in emissions falls far short of what the state environmental commission has suggested for making the air safe.
Democratic candidate Chris Bell accused Mrs. Strayhorn of copying his message from a Dallas stop last week – and noted she has received multiple campaign contributions from TXU officials.
Mr. Perry and Mrs. Strayhorn ranked in the top 10 receivers of TXU campaign contributions from 2003 to 2005, according to Texans for Public Justice.
"I don't think TXU gave Carole Strayhorn money based on her opposition to their coal plants," Mr. Bell said.
Fellow independent candidate Kinky Friedman said any of Mr. Perry's opponents would do a better job protecting the environment.
"We've got the technology to rectify this," Mr. Friedman said. "What we don't have is leadership."