ekftzteca 2600 E. 7th St. Austin, Texas 447-4701 vegetarian food Lowerre’s suit, according to Austin Board member John Scanlan. “The first I heard of the decision [to drop the leases] was at the board meeting [November 15],” Scanlan said. “It was presented basically as an economic necessity,” Scanlan continued, “as a settlement with Texas Utilities.” The subsequent LCRA press release \(which understated the cost of opening the said the leases were dropped because “it is not economically feasible to retain these leases.” The release did not mention the settlement with the Lignite Watch and the City of Bastrop. The front page story the next day in the Austin American -Statesman, on the other hand, portrayed the decision to drop the leases as a clear victory for mine opponents, saying LCRA dumped the lignitebearing land as a “settlement” that would remove “a major stumbling block to LCRA plans to begin operating” the Powell Bend mine. In the end, no one was given the full story of why the leases were dropped. Lowerre was told the land was released as a result of a legal settlement. The LCRA board was told that the authority would save money if it could rid itself of the leases. TU was told that the lignite was faulty to begin with and could not profitably be mined. And the public that funds the river authority was left to make whatever sense it could of the complicated maneuverings, aided only by the unenlightening public pronouncements, and the few shreds of evidence. Jr UST AS THERE was little reason to buy the lignite leases in the first place, there were plenty of reasons to drop them. First, the constant delays in opening the small Powell Bend mine was costing the LCRA quite a bit of money. The total development costs of the mine finally totalled over $10 million. And the authority’s contract with the company opening the mine called for “penalties” if the mine opening was delayed. Also, the Powell Bend mine had become a public relations nightmare, so much so that one Texas utility had begun a file on the LCRA Bastrop County adventure so that it would know how not to open a lignite mine. Board members were tired of hearing about the mine and were eager for the controversy to subside. And it may have been that the LCRA was eager to have the $10 million cost of opening the mine included in the authority’s rate increase request filed December 1. Fuel sources can only easily be included in a ‘ rate base, according to one Public Utilities Commission attorney, if the mine is producing fuel. The first lignite was taken from the Powell Bend mine the week after the rest of the leases were dropped. Just as the LCRA staff trumpeted the purchase of the Bastrop County leases as a boon for rate payers, the river authority announced the dumping of the leases and the opening of the minuscule Powell Bend mine as a fine example of the way the LCRA was keeping electric rates down. At the December 1984 LCRA board meeting, the river authority’s staff celebrated the opening of the Powell Bend mine by presenting each board member with a glass canister, done up with red ribbon and filled with Bastrop County lignite. No one even flinched when the canisters were presented. If the opening of LCRA’s first lignite mine was a time of bureaucratic triumph for the LCRA staff, central Texas rate payers should expect no Christmas gifts from Powell Bend over the mine’s ten year life. The LCRA press office delights in saying that the substitution of Powell Bend lignite for coal from Montana and Wyoming will save rate payers $5,000 a day. The fact of the matter is that Powell Bend lignite will cost LCRA twice what ALCOA pays in nearby Milam County to mine a single ton of lignite. Powell Bend lignite doesn’t even compare well with current coal prices from the west, despite high rail rates. Corpus Christi has routinely signed coal contracts with western producers under the stated cost of Powell Bend lignite. Buying coal from the west would have been cheaper, would have allowed Bastrop county residents to live without a strip mine in their midst, and, since western coal is cleaner than Texas lignite, buying Montana coal would have reduced air pollution in east Texas. The economics against opening more central Texas lignite mines are so strong that San Antonio is now reconsidering its lignite plans, hoping instead to open western coal plants that will service that city until the turn of the century. After the December LCRA board meeting adjourned, board member John Scanlan took his glass container of lignite over to Jane Anne Morris, a founding member of the Central Texas Lignite Watch. “Here, this is for you; you deserve it,” Scanlan said, handing her the ribboned jar. “I wish you had won.” Information for Historians, Researchers, Nostalgia Buffs, & Observer Fans Bound Volumes: The 1984 bound issues of The Texas Observer are now ready. In maroon, washable binding, the price is $30. Also available at $30 each are volumes for the years 1963 through 1983. Cumulative Index: The clothbound cumulative edition of The Texas Observer Index covering the years 1954-1970 may be obtained for $20. The 1971-1981 cumulative edition is Back Issues: Issues dated January 10, 1963, to the present are available at $2 each. Earlier issues are out of stock, but photocopies of articles from issues dated December 13, 1954 through December 27, 1962 will be provided at $2 per article. Microfilm: The complete backfile dividual years may be ordered separately. To order, or to obtain additional information regarding the 35mm microfilm editions, please write to Univ. Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106. to the Observer Business Office. Prices include sales tax and postage. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 600 W. 7th ST. AUSTIN 78701 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13
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