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2007 Texan of the Year finalist: Garrett Boone He rallied businesses to stand up for clean air 

02:37 PM CST on Friday, December 28, 2008

The Dallas Morning news


Garrett Boone had nothing to gain by taking on TXU.

When the hometown mega-utility pushed forward with plans to build 11 coal-fired power plants, TXU found reliable allies among Republicans and the business elite. If others among Dallas’ top executives had misgivings about this pollution-intensive proposal, most didn’t say.

But Mr. Boone, co-founder of the Container Store, and two other prominent business leaders weren’t satisfied to remain silent. They realized that pollution comes at a price, and they decided to stand up for clean air.

Mr. Boone, real estate scion Trammell S. Crow and David Litman, founder of Hotels.com, went to school on toxic pollutants and power plants. They quietly urged TXU to scale back its plans.

And when that didn’t work, they went public.

Mr. Boone and his clean-air compatriots formed a political action committee and joined the vocal opposition.

The emergence of Texas Business for Clean Air signaled a momentous shift in the public discourse about pollution. Suddenly, green was more than just the color of money in executive circles. And Dallas business leaders no longer seemed like such a clubby, insular group.

Mr. Boone’s organization helped move the discussion from partisan politics to matters of public health. He summarized his worldview quite succinctly when he noted: Businessmen breathe, too.

Texas Business for Clean Air recruited some 300 like-minded executives throughout the state, made its case in the media and lobbied the Legislature. The group promoted clean energy and pushed for environmental protections.

To be sure, this was a team effort. And the organization’s three founders are to be commended. But Mr. Boone’s leadership stood out, securing his spot as a finalist for Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year.

When private equity firms later announced the buyout of TXU and scrapped eight of the proposed coal plants, Mr. Boone’s group could have declared victory and returned to business as usual.

But Texas Business for Clean Air was committed to the broader debate – not just a single skirmish. The hiring of former Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher as executive director made clear that this organization would remain a force.

While going green has become more politically popular in recent months, Mr. Boone and his allies spoke up at a time when it was neither expedient nor easy. And they proved that business and environmentalists could be one and the same.