SA Climate Coalition Pushes For CPS Energy to Abandon Fossil Fuels

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Climate Action SA activists hold a press conference demanding environment protections at City Hall.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Climate Action SA activists hold a press conference demanding environmental protections at City Hall.

Shut down the coal-fired power plants by 2025, with all other fossil fuels gone by 2030.

Climate Action SA, a coalition of left-wing environmental and social justice groups, on Tuesday announced these two goals for CPS Energy, San Antonio’s municipally owned electric and gas utility, to do its part to fight the crisis of rapid global warming.

“Half of the greenhouse gas emissions that San Antonio is responsible for come from CPS Energy infrastructure – our coal plants, our gas plants, our pipes, and the like,” said Greg Harman, a Sierra Club activist and one of the group’s organizers, at a press event outside City Hall.

Greg Harman

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Greg Harman

In an email, Melissa Sorola, director of corporate communications for CPS Energy, said the utility’s goal is to be the “cleanest vertically integrated, municipally owned utility in the nation.”

“We must do that in a responsible manner that protects customers against price spikes and reliability compromises,” she continued.

Under its so-called Flexible Path plan, the utility will close its Deely coal-fired units by the end of this year but plans to continue operating its newer Spruce coal-fired units over the coming decades.

The plan calls for CPS Energy to generate half of its electricity using wind and solar by 2040, though it would also continue burning natural gas.

Last year, CPS Energy’s generating mix was roughly 45 percent natural gas, 22 percent wind and solar, 18 percent coal, and 14 percent nuclear.

The Flexible Path plan also includes expanding emerging technologies like battery storage and electric vehicles, Sorola said, along with programs to improve energy efficiency and reduce demand.

Sorola said that CPS Energy officials will continue to meet quarterly with local environmental groups and called the plan “an ongoing discussion.”

The coalition announced its goals roughly six months ahead of the completion of the first phase of the City of San Antonio’s climate plan, a move likely intended to push those in charge toward more aggressive measures.

The announcement is the first major one from the so-called “climate justice” group, which consists of members from around three dozen other groups. In mid-2017, members began regularly talking about the Trump Administration’s plans to pull the U.S. from the Paris Accord.

In private and at public events with microphones and banners, coalition members urged then-newly elected Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Council members to sign a resolution committing San Antonio to the Paris Accord goals. The new Council did so at its first meeting in June 2017.

A printed poster that reads the announcement from San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg that the city of San Antonio will stand by the Paris Agreement.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Climate Action SA members display a marked-up poster of Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s June 2017 announcement that the City will stand by the Paris Agreement.

In December, the City, CPS Energy, and the University of Texas at San Antonio officially kicked off efforts to build what they call a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan to reduce San Antonio’s greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a hotter climate.

Officials in charge of the process assembled six committees involving more than 80 volunteers who are now meeting monthly to discuss specific measures.

At the same time, members of the climate activist coalition, some of whom are also members of the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan groups, have been meeting on their own around once a week. There, they talk about their own goals and how to work directly with other community groups.

Privately, many coalition members fear that the City’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan will not be aggressive enough or adequately address the needs of the city’s poor, working class, and minority communities.

“They want to get involved,” said Sofia Sepulveda, chair of Our Revolution – San Antonio, a group originally formed to support the presidential candidacy of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Sepulveda, who lives in San Antonio’s predominantly Latino and working-class Southside, said people in such communities are interested in issues related to climate, such as air quality, cancer rates, and access to green spaces and healthy food.

“When you talk about their health, they start listening,” she said. “And when we tell them we need you to get involved…they want to get involved. You can see that they are hopeful that people who are not involved in government are coming there to help them.”

Top CPS Energy leaders will hear more of the public’s views on its power generation at a meeting next week.

The utility’s President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams and its board of trustees will hold a public hearing on the future of its fossil fuel and renewable mix from 5-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13 at the Villita Assembly Building at 401 Villita St. Those who wish to speak must sign up between 5 and 6 p.m.


16 thoughts on “SA Climate Coalition Pushes For CPS Energy to Abandon Fossil Fuels

  1. Thank you for covering Climate Action SA’s call for CPS Energy to move to all renewable energy sources and to end our use of fossil fuel energy sources by 2030. However, I do find that using the term “left-wing” to refer to the coalition is unnecessarily polarizing and inaccurate. We have residents across the political spectrum who share the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to slow and reduce the impact of climate change. The San Antonio Interfaith Environmental Network, a supporting organization of the Climate Action SA coalition, represents members of varied political views. I also note that Georgetown, Texas, whose Republican mayor advocated for powering the city with all renewable energy sources, became one of the first cities in the US to achieve this goal. Another Texas city, Denton, has committed to all renewable energy sources by 2020. Rather than being divisive, let’s focus on shared goals of developing more local sustainable jobs and supporting economically sustainable renewable fuel sources.

  2. Brandon, why as a supposedly objective reporter do you assume as fact “the crisis of rapid global warming.”

    What crisis? What’s rapid? What’s warming?

    • Where have you been, Robert Swartz? Probably watching Fix-it (aka Fox) News I suspect. The majority of the world’s scientists and nation’s do not waste their time and money denying Global Warming because the data/facts support it as conclusive reality. Everything predicted years ago about worsening hurricanes (i.e. larger in atrs, more powerful winds, slower moving over land, and dumping tons more water causing worse flooding is occurring. You must not live on the Gulf Coast if Texas. Another disastrous season is now upon us. Simply based on what happened last year, it is far wiser be prepare than to continue denying. Noah had his drniers, too, who scoffed. Should have listened and borrowed his plans for the Ark.

  3. Brandon, as an objective reporter, so-called, why do you accept as fact “the crisis of rapid global warming.”

    • Lol Robert, perhaps it’s because Brandon is an objective reporter rather than an uninformed trolling hack who doesn’t accept the facts that are clearly apparent when we get out of our confirmation biased media bubbles. It’s as simple as that.

  4. I agree entirely with Ms. Duesterhoeft’s observations regarding the use of “left-wing” as a descriptor of the Climate Action SA (CASA) coalition as being unnecessarily divisive. The negative impact of climate change will impact everyone but the impact will be amplified for those least able to initially afford the change to non-carbon based energy sources. The goals of the CASA coalition are twofold. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible and do so in the most equitable manner possible to not negatively impact those who are most vulnerable. I suggest that people include amongst these most vulnerable the future generations not yet born who will inherit a hotter and unhealthy planet if we fail to act now.

  5. Yes, thank you for covering the Climate Action SA’s call for CPS Energy to move to all renewable energy sources and to end our use of fossil fuel energy sources by 2030.

    That said, I too take issue with referring to CASA as a “left-wing” coalition. Since when did the simple concept of leaving the planet a better place for our kids have to become a partisan issue?

    Perhaps it’s time to remember it was a bipartisan coalition of Republicans and Democrats that passed the Clean Air, Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts.

    It seems there’s enough partisanship these days without a characterization that is not only inaccurate but unnecessarily polarizing. Such could all too easily, whether intentional or not, fall into a misguided attempt to potentially limit our ability to grow our community’s interest in San Antonio’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.

    Many members in our community actively work to push beyond such sectarian labels. Many of us from the business community are working to build interest and action on climate change around the potential for shared economic growth it represents in the Third Industrial Revolution.

    We are also concerned about the associated costs of stranded assets that would have to be written off due to disruption, as well as the negative long-term health effects to our community. If that’s called, “left-wing”, then my hat can certainly be eaten.

    There are many in the community, including myself, who think we win when we emphasize the challenges and opportunities we face as a community together. As a coalition, we will not always nail that. It’s easy to drift into diatribes and not-so-nuanced ideology, and we can all be guilty of it from time to time. But media communications work is challenging and scary – just as is sharing room for all of our voices.

    Many of us take a very intentionally inclusive approach to our organizing work. People support what they help create, so the more the merrier. There are undoubtedly very left-wing and radical members within CASA, but they are but an expression of what is traditionally found in the environmental/social justice domain and should not be simply pigeon-holed as “left-wing” as the Green Tea Party will attest.

    There are many groups within CASA that don’t fit the “left-wing” label by nature or are actively working against such definition, and erroneously labeling everyone as such is a disservice to building a bipartisan coalition to leave the planet a better place for our kids and generations to come.

    For your reference here is a growing list of organizations who may consider such labeling, to be generous, as – laughable. Some of us may even be considered to be, “flaming moderates”. Who woulda’ thunk.

    Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance
    Ignition Green
    Moms Clean Air Force
    Citizen’s Climate Lobby-SA
    San Antonio Interfaith Environmental Network (SAIEN)
    Native Plant Society of Texas, SA Chapter
    American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions
    Martinez Street Women’s Center
    Society of Native Nations
    Build San Antonio Green
    Greater Faith Institutional Church
    U.S. Green Building Council

  6. Actually, it should be “far left-wing.” This issue is divisive by nature. However, I do enjoy the spots reserved for energy efficient vehicles as I know I will always be able to find a decent place to park.

    • Actually, one would think it should be “far left-wing” and the issue to be divisive by nature, simply because one has a divisive “far right-wing” mentality and uninformed narrative to push.

      However, if one thinks beyond one’s nose, they will find there to be many more benefits, and more to it, than always being able to find a decent place to park.

      Things like energy independence, high paying green jobs, modern livable cities, clean air, water, healthy children, and an observation of how fossil fuel dependence is our greatest long-term national security threat, and why the military is leading the transition to clean energy. You know, all purveys of the “far left-wing”.

      Perhaps instead of labeling with a cynical intent to divide, one might want to begin to better inform oneself in order to offer positive solutions toward our need to be more resilient in a changing climate. Even if it’s a big hoax and we end up creating a better world for nothing.

      Or, at least do something to shut up those damn hippies, treehuggers and other “far left-wing” do-gooders, who not only just want to make this world a better place, but actually know they can by getting up off their cans and doing something about it.

      Things like creating circular economies and net-zero buildings on our road to building a more profitable, equitable and sustainable form of capitalism and existence on this planet in a fast changing competitive world and spiritual wakening backed by science.

      The last time we turned our backs on science it was called the Dark Ages, and caused more inconvenience than merrily finding a decent place to park.

      FYI, you are officially invited…

      WHAT: The Burden film screening (40 minutes) followed by panel discussion on the relationships between the US Military, climate change, national security, and dependence on fossil fuels. Panel discussion moderated by local journalist Rick Casey (60 minutes).

      Panel participants:
      Retired Air Force Lt. General Dirk Jameson
      Retired Army Captain James Morin
      SA Councilwoman Ana Sandoval

      The Burden tells the story of fossil fuel dependence as our greatest long-term national security threat, and why the military is leading the transition to clean energy. Learn more here:

      WHEN: Saturday, June 9th, 10am-12pm

      WHERE: Courtyard by Marriott San Antonio SeaWorld/Westover Hills, 11605 State Highway 151, San Antonio, Texas 78251

  7. Thanks for joining us this week and for covering this event. Thank you also for having taken the time many years ago to understand the fundamentals of climate science to know that high among the various colliding ecological crises that threaten human society is the cooking of the planet brought on by the massive amounts of greenhouse pollution being pumped out by human industry year after year.

    As you reported, Climate Action SA is deeply concerned about the impact this warming is having on our families. CPS Energy’s continued coal burning not only amplifies the asthma epidemic among our children and increases the rates of heart attack and early death among older adults. But the associated climate pollution also means a warmer the Gulf of Mexico making the storms hitting Texas and Mexico more and more destructive, as Harvey, Irma, and Maria showed us last season. It means our summers are will continue to get hotter—a particular punishment for those who work outside, live in inadequately cooled homes, or who must do the hour bus ride to work and back (another story you have documented). If unchecked, this growing heat will top life-threatening levels day after day without relief for entire summers within the coming decades.

    For the above apparent skeptic of consensus climate science, the basics of which became obvious in the late 1800s, it’s important to also recognize the positive side of global warming. That being, the next anticipated ice age expected in 50,000 year has been called off. Following her natural cycles and wobbles, the earth should be cooling. She’s doing anything but.

    Without ticking off any more warming impacts readily available across the web (declining crop yields, extreme droughts, rising forest fires and bleaching of the world’s great coral reefs, a big blow to the planet’s “lungs,” forced migration and armed conflict, the accelerating extinction crisis, etc.), I would offer only that Climate Action SA is doing our work because our members care about our families. And we care about the families of our neighbors. And even the folks down the street.

    Its a common concern that motivates us. Believe me, there are many other things some of us would rather be doing with our weeknights and weekends instead of meeting, blockwalking, and holding community forums. But CASA volunteers do it anyway, recognizing the moral obligation to act. They do it because they believe in working together for healthy families and strong communities and a sustainable city to share.

    I think it’s fair to say that the speakers at this event represented Climate Action SA members positioned toward the left wing of the coalition. But it is also true that we have members who work extra hard to reach across politically generated boundaries to help people understand the science of climate change and the urgent decisions that come with it. What is most interesting to me about San Antonio’s burgeoning climate movement is its breadth, its rapid growth, and the remarkable dedication of its many volunteers.

    Community conversations over these issues will be accelerating rapidly in the months ahead. I appreciate the coverage y’all have given to them to date and look forward to seeing you out there at the next event.

  8. Great article. I for one do not care who is clamoring for action to reduce human caused climate change.

    It could be the military, socialists, evangelical Christians, moderate republicans, property owners, democrats, parents of children, health care professionals, scientist, fishery workers, the p0pe, epidemiologists, entomologists, doctors, teachers, grandparents, etc.

    And I don’t care what the reasons these people have to care and advocate for measures to allow for a future where:

    property retains its value
    the air is clean enough to breathe and remain healthy
    companies can afford to manufacture without poisoning the consumers who buy their products
    water is clean enough and conserved enough to sustain a growing population

    I see these goals as the supposed ends that we all espouse, whether secular or religious, whatever political affiliation, this is a supposed vision of a just world.

    A peaceful world where everyone may flourish.

    That does not happen in a world full of climate refugees.
    In a San Antonio where real estate prices tank, where companies will not relocate here because our quality of life is so low.
    Where investments are not made for the long term for the short term view.

    Our utilities, businesses and politicians have to be astute enough to see where this is going if we maintain status quo, or do not rapidly shift to conservation and reduction.

    The city climate coalition did a good thing in calling for the cessation of using fossil fuels, they are outdated and harmful. I’m going to become a dues paying member. Renewables are the way to go. Thanks to the writer and to the alliance that is contextualizing this climate situation for the public in an HONEST and science based manner.

    Somebody please post a website or something where they can contacted.

  9. In referencing reducing dependency on dirty fossil fuels, including it’s byproducts; some of the city politicians will say poor people can’t afford to pay higher electrical bills and they will use it as an excuse to not support the climate action plan. Some others will blame it on their constituents and say they refuse to move to renewables. 2 things are operating here: self preservation of political careers, and scapegoating of the public to protect political careers from withdrawal of funding by developers, bankers and the business class.

    There is a real failure of vision and innovation in our city by the business and political class. They are riding the coattails of the leaders of the past.

    CPS used to be a leader in conservation.
    SAWS used to be a leader in conservation. Now they are just genius marketers.

    Take CPS’s Flexible Path PR speak, and let’s break it down. It is basically saying that they will keep on their current path of fossil fuels and are hoping that a new technology will appear that will help reduce reliance on fossil fuels. While admittedly lagging way behind nationally in meeting reductions. They do not specify that it must be a new clean technology nor even define clean. Yet they are basing numerical projections on this non existent source for creative accounting.

    Instead of offering to solve these problems thru innovative partnerships and funding mechanisms we get marketing spin. There’s always enough money for subsidies to corporations and developers and yet the pockets are always empty when it comes time to protect the average Joe.

    One thing is for certain, a poverty stricken resident in SA, and let’s be real that’s 1 in 5, can deal with bringing their own bags to the grocery store better than dealing with having to run their AC 7 months out of the year due to extreme heat. And yet, our city council will not even pass a plastic bag ban due to their own short term and self interested excuses. Any and all reductions on fossil fuels must be considered. Air problems are regional and global. (plastics are a huge source of fossil fuel usage). Car emissions and building energy usage are also huge. For the average homeowner in SA pays a higher rate for using electricity than buildings owned by multinational corporations.

    At a time when inequality is worse than it was during the 1920s is this a sustainable policy for 90% of SA?

    How are these politicians going to find the will to pass an effective climate action plan? Will they capitulate to CPS because the utilities fees fund a large chunk of the city budget? will they capitulate to the chamber for the interests of their donors? will they capitulate to their own personal ideologies and sacrifice the will of their constituents? Will they pass it and undermine it by having NO requirements only voluntary measures? Will it just be another greenwashing legacy attempt by yet another mayor? Will millennials and families move here with the understanding that there is no mass transit forthcoming? that temps are projected to exceeded 100 degrees for months at a time? that there is high poverty and high crime and bad air quality? that SA is being changed rapidly into a high rent city without the amenities of cooler, more forward thinking cities and wage stagnation? These questions and more are part of the multilayered cake of thinking critically on climate change.

  10. After reading this article and comments, I am surprised that this is not an ongoing series that does more of an attempt to educate readers on climate change action plan, the politics involved and the economics involved.

    I heard there is an article in the Express News but have not read it, or commented, but I will read theirs next.

    What is now commonly referred to as the left wing in mainstream media holds similar environmental goals of the moderates of the Republican party of yesteryear.

    The EPA was formed under Nixon, the Clean Air Act also passed under Nixon by a bipartisan congress. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act was also passed under Gerald Ford, a Republican president. The New Deal was passed to help save capitalism. Keynesian capitalism. Not the neoliberal capitalism of today that is eroding democracy.

    These used to be commonsense goals based on science based debates and a check in with actual people whose lives are affected. Now they are seen as extreme because decades of corporatism and corruption have colluded to place our environmental agencies into Regulatory Capture, our politicians into the pockets of corporations and donors, and sadly our 4th estate is on the run from advertisers and consolidation by media conglomerates. Incidentally all of these controlling factions are right wing. The Koch brother and their American Legislative Exchange Council have annual conferences in where business and politicians attend to come away with language to form policy at all levels to align with right wing ideology.

    The left has to do it’s job, as it has always done, advocating for the average person for health care, for Medicare and Medicaid, for public safety, for labor rights, for a 5 day work week, for women’s equality, for social security, for food safety, for the right to clean air and water, for housing rights, for consumer rights, for environmental protection, for LGBTQ rights, for the rights of Black Americans descendants of chattel slavery, for native rights, for voting rights, for public education, often in coalitions with moderates who see both the morality and the logic behind securing a future for all those who can not buy their way into the safest food, the cleanest water, the air purifiers, the private schools, the life of leisure without work, who can not bribe politicians or retreat into other bubbles of wealth, lineage and class.

    Wait, what I think the left wing is mistaken for is merely the outcry of a general public who sees their standard of life declining on every measure.

    In the meantime to hear from the left wing, here are some sources, that you can listen to anywhere, not just on the steps of your local city hall.

    Citations Needed Podcast- on media
    The Dig Podcast – on historical and current events
    Belabored podcast – on labor rights
    Economic Update with Richard D. Wolff
    Tonetalks’ podcast
    At the Intersection podcast
    The Race and Wealth podcast
    Counterspin podcast

  11. We have 1,000 acres of debt free, cleared, flat farmland located in Loop, TX. If we put in a 20 megawatt solar farm in Loop, TX to start with, could your association work with us to obtain a contract with CPS to purchase it? Solar Farms in Lamesa (40 miles east) have contracted with Garland, TX to purchase theirs. We actually get more sun in our area.

  12. I wonder how many of these people use that electricity (I always found people who use electric cars to be the most hypocritical)? How many of these people participate in solar (and if you don’t have a house, you can participate in community solar)? How many of these people complain about their electric bill costs, or the continuing increases by CPS?

    How many of these people acknowledge that even the leaders in environmental movements (like Germany) use clean coal? And, how many of these people acknowledge that the greatest contributor to global warming has absolutely nothing to do with man?

    • There is not such thing as “clean coal.” And, what, pray tell, is this “greatest contributor to global warming” that has nothing to do with man? Please don’t say volcanoes. By all accounts, humans’ burning of fossil fuels adds over 30 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere each year. That is more than 100 times as great as all other natural sources combined, including volcanoes.

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