After years of pressure from the community, the Austin City Council adopted a plan in 2014 that committed to shutting down Austin Energy's portion of the coal-burning Fayette power plant by the end of 2022. This pledge has been a cornerstone of meeting our climate goals, but in November, Austin Energy announced that they haven't come to an agreement with the co-owner of Fayette that will allow them to keep that promise.
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) - which co-owns the Fayette coal plant - is a captive agency controlled by Gov. Abbott’s political appointees, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways to pressure them into cooperating. We're asking the Austin City Council to direct Austin Energy to get tough with their negotiation tactics.
First: Stop investing in coal. Austin Energy shouldn't be approving any more investments in maintaining the Fayette coal plant. Why put money into a facility you're trying to shut down? Each year, the Fayette Management Committee, which is half Austin Energy and half LCRA representatives, votes on a capital budget for the plant. That vote happens in May or June and we want Austin Energy to vote "no." If LCRA wants to keep running the plant against our will, the least they can do is pay for its maintenance.
Second: Invest in groundwater testing. A 2019 report by the Environmental Integrity Project presents data showing groundwater contamination at and around Fayette that is likely coming from the coal ash disposed of at the site. Coal ash is full of toxic substances that cause cancer, heart disease, reproductive failure, and stroke, and can inflict lasting brain damage on children. LCRA should have added additional testing wells when this problem was first noticed, but that hasn't happened. Even if the LCRA doesn't want to take action to protect the local community and ecosystems, Austin should.
Email the Austin City Council to ask that they direct Austin Energy to stop funding coal and immediately invest in additional groundwater testing.
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