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The Night the Lights Go Out in Texas By: J. William Lauderback
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, September 21, 2006


The leftist Democratic mayors of Dallas and Houston, Laura Miller and Bill White, are taking a play right out of the California political playbook as they try to turn out the lights—literally—in Texas.

California, which has refused for over 30 years to allow any new electric power generation plants to be constructed in the state, is repeatedly plagued with brownouts and total electrical power failures during the summer months. For no other reason than pure partisan politics, Mayors Miller and White view replicating the California experience as a winning strategy.

Over the next decade, if current trends continue, the Texas economy will rapidly expand while the state’s population will swell by another six million new residents. Experts at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas warn that without new electric power generation, the state’s power reserves could drop below reliable levels by 2008.

2008 is only 15 months away. And if Mayors Miller and White have their way, Texas will be the next California, a state unable to provide its citizens with affordable and reliable electric power.

Enter TXU, the Dallas-based utility that provides electricity and related services to more customers than any other retail electric provider in the state. Recognizing that Texas is rapidly approaching the limits of its ability to provide power to its citizens and businesses, TXU announced in April its plan to invest more than $10 billion to build 11 new coal-fired power generation units at existing sites. The TXU plan will not only help meet the state’s exploding demand requirements; it will also lower wholesale power costs by an estimated $1.7 billion annually and create thousands of jobs.

But won’t these new power plants erode air quality? Absolutely not. Indeed, according to the independent air modeling analysis requested by state and local officials and recently released by the Texas Environmental Research Consortium, the TXU plan will actually improve air quality.

How can this be? New power plants mean more pollution, right? No, not when it’s done correctly. The TXU plan calls for spending up to $2.5 billion of its investment to retrofit equipment and adjust the fuel mix at existing plants to reduce emissions, and to use the best available environmental control technology at the new plants. TXU is so confident in this plan that it has formally asked state regulators to make its 20% emissions reduction commitments binding and legally enforceable. Read that last sentence again—binding and legally enforceable.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a conservative Republican, has endorsed the TXU plan, and therein lays the opportunity for demagoguery by left-wing Democrats.

Mayor Miller of Dallas has been a foot solider for left-leaning causes her entire career. For instance, she was formerly an investigative reporter for the ultra-leftist rag, the Dallas Observer. Mayor White of Houston was formerly the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party and served in the Clinton administration as Deputy Secretary of Energy, a post in which he did nothing to help the United States produce energy domestically.  

Mayors Miller and White recently announced the creation of the “Texas Cities for Clean Air Coalition” composed of 15 other like-minded Democratic mayors from smaller Texas cities. Never mind that 45 city councils, school boards, other community organizations and community leaders in Texas have publicly endorsed TXU’s plan. The Miller-White coalition has vowed to fight the new power plants before state regulators or in court on the utterly unfounded theory that TXU is lying about its ability to reduce emissions.

To advance their cause the Miller-White coalition has hired the notorious trail lawyer firm Susman Godfrey LLP of Houston, whose principals Stephen Susman and H. Lee Godfrey are among the Texas Democrat party most reliable donors. Mayor White was formerly a partner at Susman Godfrey, where he became a millionaire suing business. Back in 2003, the firm announced on its Web site, “In a little more than a decade, we have achieved for plaintiffs in over 75 lawsuits settlements in excess of $1 million, representing total recoveries of over $2.2 billion.”

What the coalition won’t tell you is that the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former one-term congressman Chris Bell of Houston, is trailing Gov. Perry by 15 points. In other words, Texas Democrats are desperate.

Indeed, why allow a state’s best economic and environmental interests to get in the way when you can score points against your political opponents? What better way to energize the Democratic base than to tell bald-faced lies about a company’s efforts to meet the needs of its customers and accuse the Republican governor of wanting to pollute the environment?

The “Texas Cities for Clean Air Coalition” is the latest installment in a long line of Democratic-inspired farces. As native Texan, former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Don Meredith, used to sing from his Monday Night Football broadcasting perch, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

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J. William Lauderback is the executive vice president of the American Conservative Union.


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