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May 02, 2013

Slaying the Dirty-Energy Dragon in Austin


Texas Sierra Club organizer Lydia Avila reports that the Austin Earth Day Festival -- co-sponsored by the Sierra Club -- included a street theater-type rally called "The Story of Energy in Texas." Staged by Austin Beyond Coal volunteers, the satirical performance featured a clean-energy knight and a dirty-energy dragon. [Watch the video here.]


"Our narrator talked about the havoc fossil fuels have wreaked on the Texas landscape, and emphasized the climate disruption that is happening as a result," Avila says. "Then the clean-energy knight appeared and saved the day! Adults enjoyed it and the kids really got into it, even kicking the dragon and booing the dragon's henchmen/lobbyist."

Get-Well-SoonAt the end of the performance, Sierra Club volunteers asked the crowd of several hundred people to make a call to Austin City Council and the Mayor Lee Leffingwell and ask them to phase out the Fayette coal-fired power plant, located about 60 miles southeast of Austin. Austin Energy owns a 50 percent stake in two of the plant's three units.

"It was a fun way to get a message across and get people to take action," Avila says. "Meanwhile, at our Sierra Club table, we got kids and adults to sign a huge "Earth: Get Well Soon" card that will be sent to President Obama, as well as Austin Beyond Coal petitions to the mayor."

Avila gives a shout-out to Austin Group volunteer leader Jeff Crunk, "who made this happen," and Texas Beyond Coal interns Avery Thompson, Diego Atencio, Mike Ray, Morgan Faulkner, Tansy Stobart, and Yuval Edrey for helping organize the Club's Earth Day activities.

"Austin's Earth Day this year showed that we've gone a long way since last year, but we still have a lot of work to do," says Avila, below at right. "It reminded people why we're doing the work that we're doing."

Lydia-AvilaThe Sierra Club and Citizen Action are advocating that the Fayette plant, which emits some 12 million tons of global-warming emissions annually, to cease burning coal as soon as possible and no later than 2017.

Austin-based Environment Texas, the Texas Campaign for the Environment, and the Environmental Integrity Project have filed a federal lawsuit against the Lower Colorado River Authority, which owns and operates the 1,641-megawatt plant, on the grounds that it has violated the Clean Air Act thousands of times.

Lone Star Chapter organizer Jerome Collins reports that in 2010 a pecan farmer in Fayette County came to the Sierra Club and reported that his pecan trees were dying, and he was convinced it was because of the Fayette coal plant. The previous year, a pecan farmer in Tennessee received a settlement from the Tennessee Valley Authority after it was determined that TVA pollution had destroyed his trees.

Learn more about what the Beyond Coal Campaign is doing to move Texas and the nation off coal.

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