Nix the Nukes: Dispatch from the Frontlines of the Texas Energy Wars

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On October 29 of last year, two dozen community leaders found themselves banging against the boardroom door of their public utility, City Public Service (CPS). The board, which includes the mayor, was poised to approve an initial $206 million investment in two nuclear reactors – the first in the country in nearly 30 years. CPS had already quietly applied for a license along with its private partner, NRG Energy. We’d petitioned and been granted time to speak, but instead faced police – though they failed to shut us out.

Southwest Workers’ Union (SWU) recognized the nuclear proposal as a pivotal point in San Antonio’s energy policy, and a critical moment to intervene in the good ole’ boy system of dirty energy development, which planned to build a new power plant every four years. As a multi-racial, intergeneration, membership-based organization representing 2,500 local school workers and low income families – all CPS ratepayers –we felt we had to take on the nukes and demand a transparent CPS that prioritized efficiency and renewable energy as a matter of social justice.

While CPS likes to boast of its low rates, utility bills are high here because our low-income homes waste more energy than in any other large city in the South. The dirty plants that produce that energy are located in the same communities. Meanwhile, CPS’s conservation programs give rebates to folks that can afford to buy new appliances or solar arrays – leaving the majority of families out. A 2004 study commissioned by CPS found that San Antonio could save almost as much energy as it would gain from the nukes through efficiency programs. That goal was never implemented. In our campaign, we champion retrofitting and local renewable installations as vehicles for green job creation to lift working families out of poverty and lower utility bills at the same time.


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