Home Donate Online About Us Contact Us Articles Press Room

Downwinders At Risk-Articles


Sunday, November 05, 2006


Coming to Austin Friday

“The Float that TXU Doesn’t Want You to See” Features Smoke Stack-Kissing Governor, Spotlights Air Quality While State Writes New Plan

(Dallas--) Vowing not to be cowed by threats of a TXU lawsuit, DFW-based anti-pollution group Downwinders at Risk is sending its12 by 16-foot float of a smoke stack smooching Governor Perry across the state on a seven day swing through Central Texas that includes a visit to Austin on Friday.

“’Rick Perry’s Smoke Stack Love World Tour’ is proceeding as planned, and no amount of huffing and puffing by TXU attorneys is going to stop it,” said Jim Schermbeck, a Downwinders board member who is volunteering to drive the float on a trip that will see it go all the way to New Braunfels and back to DFW in the next eight days.

A week ago, the group was told by the state’s largest utility to quit displaying the TXU corporate logo on the smoke stack that the cartoon Rick Perry is kissing, or get sued. Downwinders dismissed the threat as so much hot air.

“There are some things TXU’s money can’t buy,” said Schermbeck, “including the first amendment of the U.S. constitution.” Logos of Midlothian cement makers TXI and Ash Grove also adorn the float, which belches theatrical smoke, but so far only TXU has said it will sue Downwinders over the project.

TXU’s threat has overshadowed the original purpose of the float, which was to spotlight Governor Perry’s continued favortism of some of oldest, dirtiest smoke stacks in the state, even while writing a new clean air plan for DFW. The group complains that Perry is refusing to require modern pollution controls for Midlothian cement plants that could greatly reduce air pollution in DFW and dramatically improve public health. They accuse him of doing the same thing with the wave of 17 proposed new coal-fired plants. At stops along the way, Schermbeck will be showing a PowerPoint presentation that outlines the group’s case to media and the public.

On this trip, Downwinders plotted a course for the rolling editorial cartoon that will take it through
Austin, home to Governor Perry and often downwind of what Schermbeck calls a new “Smog Belt” that will result from the construction of so many new power plants without the best pollution controls. “Austin definitely has a dog in this fight, “ said Schermbeck. “We’re talking about facilities that will be pouring out tens of thousands of tons of poisons into the air for the next 40 years. I really don’t think folks in Austin want to breathe the same kind of air Houston or Dallas residents are forced to breathe.”

Schermbeck said the float’s target in Austin would be the Governor’ s mansion. “The person who can make the decision to demand the best pollution controls in this new clean air plan is Rick Perry. Rick Perry lives in the Governor’s Mansion. In our own way, we’re trying to bring the problems our members face every day to the literal front step of where the Governor lives.

Schermbeck says he expects to be parked across from the Mansion all day on Friday, or circulating around the Governor’s neighborhood, belching smoke and all.

“At least for one day, we want his home to be directly downwind, just like ours are,” said Schermbeck.

Response to the head-tuning piece of protest art has been great, said Schermbeck. “Positive reactions outnumber negative ones by 50 to 1 every time we hit the road.” And what about Governor Perry, who saw the float un-officially join his entourage on a recent bus tour of North Texas? “I don’t think he has much of a sense of humor about it.”