December 13, 2005
Polluters Stuff Pols' Stockings
With Filthy-Coal Cash
As State Officials Consider the Next Generation of Dirty-Coal Plants
In October Texas Governor Rick Perry ordered his state environmental appointees to expedite applications to build new coal-fired power plants in Texas—the first such polluting plants to be built here for 17 years. Four of the six entities seeking new coal plants have given more than $750,000 to Texas PACs and politicians since 2003. The top recipient of this money, Governor Perry, received nine percent of the total ($66,890).
Most of the campaign contributions from coal-plant applicants came from utility giant TXU, which operates some of Texas’ largest dirty-coal plants. TXU PACs and employees poured $753,522 into state politics in recent years. PACs and employees of three other coal-plant applicants, Sempra Energy, Formosa Plastics and San Antonio’s City Public Power Service, gave considerably less.
No campaign contributions were found for two coal-plant applicants: LS Power and the Calhoun County Port Authority.
Yet little is known about who controls LS Power, which seeks to build the so-called Sandy Creek Energy Associates coal plant near Waco despite local opposition. Some government filings suggest that LS Power was closely tied to North Carolina-based Cogentrix Energy at the time that Goldman Sachs bought that energy company in 2003.
|City Public Service||$6,060|
Top Coal Recipients ('03-Present)
Coal Money Recipient
|Yes on 12 (tort law initiative)||$25,000|
|Texas Democratic Party||$21,500|
|Citizens For a Better Fort Worth||$15,000|
|Carole Keeton Strayhorn||$12,250|
|IBEW Local No. 2337||$7,622|
|Vinson & Elkins PAC||$6,524|
|Todd A. Baxter||$6,100|
Texas' Coal Lobby (Sept. 2005)
|*City Public Service||San Antonio||$375,000||$185,000||5|
|*Sempra Energy||San Diego, CA||$275,000||$135,000||4|
|Westmoreland Coal Co.||Colorado Sprgs, CO||$130,000||$50,000||4|
|North American Coal Corp.||Dallas||$120,000||$50,000||3|
|*Sandy Creek Energy Assoc., L.P.||St. Louis, MO||$100,000||$50,000||2|
|Ctr for Energy & Economic Develop.||Alexandria, VA||$60,000||$20,000||3|
|TX Coal Ash Utilization Group||Austin||$40,000||$0||4|
|Peabody Energy||St. Louis, MO||$25,000||$10,000||1|
|TX Clean Coal Foundation||Austin||$25,000||$10,000||1|
|TX Mining & Reclamation Assoc.||Austin||$20,000||$0||2|
|Coal Combustion Products Coalition||Austin||$10,000||$0||1|
|Gulf Coast Lignite Coalition||Austin||$10,000||$0||1|
Thirteen coal interests spent up to $3.9 million on 78 Texas lobby contracts in 2005. TXU led, spending up to $2.7 million on 47 Texas lobby contracts. Three other interests seeking to build new coal plants in Texas—City Public Service, Sempra Energy and Sandy Creek Energy—collectively spent up to $750,000 on 11 more Texas contracts.
Three coal companies (Westmoreland, North American, and Peabody)—joined by the industry’s Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED)—spent $335,000 lobbying Texas officials this year.
Five groups that promote coal mining or burning reported smaller lobby contracts. One of these, the Texas Clean Coal Technology Foundation, supports Governor Perry’s goal of sponsoring research in Texas to find cleaner ways to burn dirty coal. The foundation is headed by the North American Coal Corp. CEO Clifford Miercort. Its ex-officio director is Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, a top recipient of coal money. Other foundation officers and directors come from the CEED, American Electric Power, TXU, Westmoreland Coal and Sempra Energy.
Texas’ coal lobbyists include three former officials who worked at predecessors to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which is slated to review issues surrounding the new coal-plant applications tomorrow. John L. Hall, who reported up to $150,000 from TXU and City Public Service, is a former commissioner of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission. Sandy Creek Energy is paying Jeff Saitas, the ex-director of this defunct agency, up to $50,000.
Lloyd Gosselink lobbyist Chesley Blevins reported five small coal contracts. Blevins previously worked at another TECQ predecessor agency and at the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates mining. Blevins is legal counsel to the Texas Mining and Reclamation Association.
Mark Malone, whom TXU is paying up to $150,000, made headlines this spring by buying dinner for Senator Troy Fraser and his entourage when they were TXU’s guests at the Masters golf tournament in Georgia. Colorado-based Browen Turner reported Texas contracts worth up to $110,000 with Westmoreland Coal and its Texas subsidiary.