The QueQue

Missed connections

San Anto Greenies may have watched CPS Energy slash-and-burn management practices, as Queque has this past year, and thought the company was slimming down to better sell its nuke ambitions. Welcome to a whole new spin: It’s a dastardly scheme to spin-off the transmission service, or the gas service, or some portion of one or the other, according to inside chisme circulating among staffers.

Since press flacks there have decided not to return our calls of inquiry, we emailed questions to CPS Energy, where, no doubt, resourceful techies have solved the mystery of the missing emails by now `See “Up In Smoke,” August 6, 2008`.

The four-day tease otherwise known as our last attempt at conversation with CPS officials, ended when we finally opted to submit an Open Records request on some of our questions. Whoops. We had no idea that meant that the pressies would drop us faster than last month’s menstrual plug.

“Since you have filed an Open Records request, we can’t help you anymore.”

So, like, the company you own will only say what the state Attorney General decides they ultimately HAVE to say about privatization, Board attendance, meter estimations, and dangerous holes in the mapping software. Lucky you.

Even as other media were busily not initiating their own investigations, the City’s utility was handing over a fistful of dollars in 57th State District court for gender discrimination: $620,000 to a 30-year man trying to work his way up in the all-female service-desk department. That should cover some of the mental anguish — at least that’s the idea. Only another two-dozen discrimination cases to go, Mr. Lee.

Viral marketing

Meanwhile, your damn daily is keeping the sales pressure on with its second (third?) editorial extolling the fitness of Alamo City to host Homeland Security’s proposed National Bio- & Agro-Defense Facility. That in and of itself wouldn’t be so bad. Queque’s gripe is that the news coverage — including two pro-lab business columns — follows that same boosterish trajectory.

Here’s a collection of some recent E-N headlines about the NBAF, for which SA is now a “finalist.”

“Scientists like S.A.’s chances for lab,” June 2006

“Scientists are smiling at the city’s chances of landing disease lab,” June 2006

“Biodefense lab needs support of community,” February 2007

“Texas’ biolab hopefuls united,” May 2007

“Defense lab fans remain hopeful,” June 2008

“Officials say S.A. ready for disease laboratory,” August 2008

“Local backers positive about S.A.’s prospects for biological research lab,” August 2008

“S.A. remains hopeful, in hunt for defense lab,” August 2008

There has been exactly one article that attempted to consider the wisdom of moving what would become the nation’s supreme germ lab to combat potential bio-terrorism from an island off the East Coast to the heart of cattle and corn country. Of course, that was before the U.S. Department of Homeland Security came out with their report detailing all the ways Plum Island is the most secure site for such research (See “Last Words,” July 2, 2008).

(Carlos Guerra, the X-News’ token bleeding heart, took on the topic briefly, promising three columns but only penning two after Queque called him out for shielding UTSA when he used a “Texas lab” mishap for an analogy of the risks involved while failing to disclose the lab he was speaking of was right here in Alamo City.)

There’s certainly been no dearth of Associated Press material they could pull, either. In fact, they did run one such wire story this past Sunday whose focus was to show how those slippery Mississippians had managed to gladhand it to the final round in the site selection process.

Wire stories editors chose not to run include Homeland Security’s use of flawed data to justify the lab’s move inland; possible inland outbreaks shown to be exponentially more damaging than any island-based screw-ups; and the likelihood that another psychopath on par with accused anthrax killer Bruce Ivins may be lurking in federal lab universe.

You wouldn’t want to read that scary stuff anyway, would you? “Smiling scientists” are so much easier on the fading gas-tax ulcers.

Dust bunnies

Whilst the entrenched powers that be cheer on doomsday devices as a means to economic salvation, the EPA persists in its old-fashioned reclamation activities, one sorry brownfield at a time (and by time, we mean epoch).

But Big Tex’s turn has finally come ’round, and EPA On-Site Coordinator Eric Delgado plans to be in town NLT mid-October with his space-suited crew to begin scraping off the dirt that’s contaminated with asbestos all the way from Libby, Montana.

New to this story? Hard to swallow, but here’s the crib: Repeat eco-offender W.R. Grace mined and shipped tons of asbestos-riddled vermiculite from now-Superfund site Libby to processing facilities across the country, including one that sat on the Big Tex plot and “popped” the carcinogen into the air for more than a generation. Present-day owner James Lifshutz has retail and condo plans for the riverside lot that will pair nicely with his adjacent Blue Star Arts Complex, but thanks to the agitation of local citizens, the grounds were tested and four areas were found to have troublesome levels of Libby’s carcinogenic overachiever, tremolite asbestos. `The trail of Current stories is getting too long to list here, but you can find it online under See Also at the end of this column.`

Which brings us to present-day SA: EPA will foot the bill to remove an estimated 800-2,000 cubic yards of dirt (depending on how deep they have to dig) to a TBD permitted dump, until the site gets a green light. End of story. Except that Lifshutz may yet get stuck with the cost of remediation.

“It is our policy to always seek cost recovery from a financially viable party,” says EPA PIO Dave Barry and the agency “has not yet identified a party.”

An official cleanup plan triggers official notices, so look for paid legal announcements in the daily, and meaningful updates here. If you’d like to be added to the official mailing notification list for public meetings, email [email protected]

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