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David Minton - DRC

Outside Denton City Hall, dozens protest approval of Renewable Denton Plan

Update at 5:20 p.m.:

Protesters spent their lunch hour Friday holding signs and waving to passing traffic outside Denton City Hall, opposing a natural-gas fired power plant to be built on the edge of town.

On Tuesday, a deeply divided Denton City Council approved in a 4-3 vote the city’s largest-ever capital purchase: $265 million for 12 engines and the electric power plant to house them. The new power plant ostensibly allows Denton Municipal Electric to walk away from coal-fired power and buy more electricity from wind and solar farms.

The protesters said the new plant won’t do much to clean the air. The coal plant is being sold, not retired. Because the new plant burns natural gas, it will bring a new emissions source to the area.

Officials have said the new plant will run intermittently, and its emissions aren’t expected to have much of an impact. Denton and the Dallas-Fort Worth area have some of the worst air quality in the country, particularly in the summer.

Katy Kinard was one of the two dozen people, including several children, who spent about an hour between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. standing on the sidewalk and holding a sign for passing motorists to see. The protest remained peaceful as people occasionally took a break from the hot Texas sun to stand under the shade of nearby trees. Drivers in cars, pickups and big rigs honked their horns as they passed.

“If I don’t put my time toward making the world I love into what I want it to be, how can I expect anyone else to do it?” Kinard said. “I want the air to be clear.”

Denton resident Hale Baskin organized the event through Facebook. She saw promotions declaring Friday “Clean Air Action Day” and decided protesting the plant would be meaningful, she said.

Clean Air Action Day is an educational program of the North Central Texas Council of Governments that encourages individuals, businesses and governments to understand and make clean air choices.

Baskin’s letter was among the 900 Denton residents sent to city leaders protesting the new natural gas plant, she said. During Tuesday’s council vote, she was upset to watch most of the council members admit they had not read the letters.

“And then they had the nerve to call us a vocal minority,” Baskin said.

On his blog, council member Kevin Roden wrote that the gas plant is an integral part of a larger plan to help the city-owned utility get 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. He believes if another city had such a plan, they would be praised for it, not criticized. Roden championed the plan during several months of contentious debate.

“It’s a truly remarkable, historic plan,” Roden wrote.

Deb Armintor, one of four candidates who challenged Dalton Gregory for Place 5 seat on the City Council but lost, said the protesters plan to keep the pressure on, though she wouldn’t say what they might do next.

“We are continuing to educate people about what the City Council has just decided,” Armintor said. “People need to know.”

 

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

 

Original brief:

Close to 10 people stood outside Denton City Hall on Friday afternoon to protest the Renewable Denton Plan, which was approved this week by City Council on a 4-3 vote.

The plan gives Denton Municipal Electric the go-ahead for the city’s largest-ever capital purchase: $265 million for 12 natural-gas fired engines and a power plant to house them. It ostensibly allows the city to walk away from coal-fired power and buy much more energy from wind and solar farms.

“If I were a kid right now, I would have never thought we would get to this point,” said Denton resident and protester Joanna Ceja, referring to the council’s vote.

— Staff report