June 15, 2007
As I’ve noted before, I have virtually no ego. But even someone as humble as me can feel bruised every now and then. I’ve spent much of the last decade here in Central Texas trying to be as recognizable as I can. It’s hard on a guy who’s introverted. But I’ve paid for a number of campaign commercials, and I’ve been known to let folks put my picture in the paper or on TV. All tastefully and with appropriate humility, of course.So this past week, Liz and I went to a fancy celebrity hoo-haw. The actor Dennis Quaid (perhaps you remember The Alamo) puts on a golf tournament and gala in Austin every year to raise money for charities that help kids. It’s a really great deal, and it’s just crawling with big time actors and athletes. Just Hollywood in Austin is all. Lots of star gazing going on by everyone.Anyway, we walked into the deal like we belonged. A couple of people recognized me. A few called out “Hello, Senator,” or “Hey, Mayor” (some people can’t move on). I was feeling pretty good.Then, it happened. A couple was looking at me with some excitement and that look like, “Yeah, we know him. He’s some big time guy.” I graciously nodded in their direction (not-so-humbly acting like I am a big time guy). Then, this woman suddenly registered utter disappointment, turned to the man she was with, and said, “Oh, that’s just Kirk Watson.”Liz almost spit out her drink laughing. So much for ego. But, I did get a salve this week when Texas Monthly named me “Rookie of the Year” in its review of legislators. Pretty neat, and I’m pretty proud.Now I’m getting fully into the interim. Besides splitting my time between practicing law and serving my constituents, I spent part of the last week working on an issue that was before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. In case you missed it, TXU is asking to build two lignite coal-fired power plants in Robertson County, which is northeast of Austin. These units, known collectively as Oak Grove, would be the first such plants built in Texas in the last quarter-century, partly because they emit so much pollution.I’m opposed to this plant. When I chaired the Texas Air Control Board, I worked to steer Texas away from projects that added to air pollution. As Mayor, I worked with leaders from across this region to create a compact through which we all started working together to clean up the air before the federal government forced us to. And as Senator, I pushed successfully this session to create an energy policy that would help the state figure out what energy it has, what it needs, and how to close that gap while avoiding the dirtiest power plants, such as Oak Grove.This plant would threaten all of these efforts. It raises questions about the air quality and economies of Central Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. And it would spew carbon dioxide into the air at a time when Texas is already the leading emitter of greenhouse gases in the nation (which, in turn, is the leading greenhouse gas emitter in the world).Here’s an excerpt from the comments I delivered on Wednesday:
People should expect and believe the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is going to instinctively stand up for the public’s health and the environment.The truth is you have two fundamental obligations to the Texans you serve: to protect their health, and to reassure them that you’re doing just that. If people don’t feel safe, they aren’t safe.Today, you have the chance to protect the public and to reassure people that you are.
Unfortunately, pleas from me, legislators and local officials from Central Texas and North Texas, and a range of business, community, and environmental groups were ignored. The Commission voted 2-1 to approve the plant.In my view, Texas has a lot more work to do in protecting its environment, not to mention its economy.