Will the environmental lobby be even-handed with utilities?
They were heralded as “landmark” or “watershed” moments in the industry—a series of deals completed during the last few months in which utilities sat down and negotiated with environmentalists on coal-plant development.
While many in the industry had hoped this was the start of a positive new trend, some environmentalists have double-dealt across state lines, arguing against coal plants in one state and then negotiating for their development in the other.
Utilities may be hard pressed to agree to these deals if environmentalists don’t play straight. The question is whether environmental groups that were completely opposed to coal plants will be able to maintain a pragmatic approach (as in recent deals) or the more extremist nature of some of these groups will resurface.
Take the Sierra Club. The environmental group fought TXU’s plan to build 11 coal plants tooth-and-nail, even as the governor of Texas and the CEO of the utility emphasized the need for such plants to meet the state’s power-reliability needs at low cost.
“This will create enough capacity to meet Texas’ needs to 2015,” said TXU CEO John Wilder last year. “Texans want ample generation supply, access to lower electric prices, and better air quality, and TXU will deliver all three.”