Dave Fehling

Reporter

Dave Fehling is the Houston-based broadcast reporter for StateImpact. Before joining StateImpact Texas, Dave reported and anchored at KHOU-TV in Houston. He also worked as a staff correspondent for CBS News from 1994-1998. He now lectures on journalism at the University of Houston.

  • Email: dfehling@houstonpublicmedia.org
  • Twitter: @DaveFehling

How Texas Challenges The Power Of Cities And Their Citizens

“Texas is being California-ized,” Abbott said at a keynote speech he delivered January 8th to the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Screengrab from the video.

“Texas is being California-ized,” Abbott said at a keynote speech he delivered January 8th to the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

In a speech last month, Governor Greg Abbott said his state was becoming more like California because cities are banning things like fracking or the cutting down of trees. The Texas Legislature may soon debate passing laws to stop those local initiatives. But is that so new?

When Governor Abbott expressed dismay at what city governments and their citizens were doing in his state, it might have struck some observers of Texas politics as nothing new. Because for years now, the state of Texas has been challenging the power of the cities of Texas and of individual Texans.

But who exactly would want to do that and why?

We looked for answers at the statehouse. It’s where last spring the issue came up in a public hearing held by the House Committee on Environmental Regulation.

“I’d like to tell you our story,” said Lesley Carey shortly after she took the podium in front of the committee.

Continue Reading

Better Batteries Might Hold Enough To Power Your Neighborhood

James Tour leads research at Rice University to develop smaller, more powerful batteries.

Davew Fehling

James Tour leads research at Rice University to develop smaller, more powerful batteries.

One of the nation’s leading researchers who’s trying to make batteries better is James Tour and his colleagues at Rice University.

“Everybody’s investing billions. If you say millions they scoff at you,” Tour told News 88.7.

Tour says there are three categories of things that need better batteries: portable electronic devices, electric vehicles, and a use we wanted to learn more about: batteries to store huge amounts of electricity to power homes and businesses.

“We are not there yet to be able to store large amounts of electricity. So in other words you have huge banks where you can store electricity at night while people are sleeping.”

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Environmental Group Wants Loophole Closed On Oil And Gas Pollution

Flaring gas at well site in DeWitt County

Flaring gas at well site in DeWitt County

Lawsuit Filed in Washington Hits Home With Houston’s Biggest Industry

According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the biggest source of air pollution in Texas are oil and gas wells, emitting far more pollution than petrochemical plants or refineries. Yet, federal law exempts those drilling operations from having to report all their chemical releases to a publicly accessible national database called the Toxics Release Inventory.

“That would be very useful to an average citizen in Texas to know that they can go and find out the whole picture,” said Adam Kron, a lawyer with the Environmental Integrity Project. Continue Reading

Tragedies In Texas: Why Senators Say New Chemical Safety Rules Are Needed

Texas Department of Public Safety Sergeant Jason Reyes walks past the site of an apartment complex destroyed by the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West.

Photo by REUTERS /POOL/LANDOV

Texas Department of Public Safety Sergeant Jason Reyes walks past the site of an apartment complex destroyed by the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West.

Accidents at facilities that handle dangerous chemicals in Texas were at the center of a hearing in Washington.

Accidents at facilities that handle dangerous chemicals in Texas were at the center of a hearing in Washington. Some senators are pressing for quick action to reduce the risk of deadly chemical leaks and explosions. They wanted to know if there’s been any progress since President Obama issued an executive order to improve chemical safety, an order that followed the fertilizer explosion in the city of West.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, said she was disappointed that “little progress” had been made.

“And we know there are problems because they keep happening. And people are dying, and people are going to the hospital,” said Boxer.

Other members of the Senate committee used a recent example of yet another deadly chemical accident. Continue Reading

Federal Investigators: Chemical Industry Has A Safety Crisis

An aerial view shows investigators walking through the aftermath of a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, near Waco, Texas April 18, 2013.

Photo by REUTERS/Adrees Latif

An aerial view shows investigators walking through the aftermath of a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, near Waco, Texas April 18, 2013.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board says the industry it oversees is experiencing a safety crisis. The board investigates industrial accidents. It says recent deadly explosions and chemical leaks in Texas make a strong case for action.

It’s been a tragic couple of years for some people who work around dangerous chemicals in Texas.

“Fertilizer plant on fire, there was an explosion; we have several buildings that have been destroyed,” said a dispatcher to first responders headed to a fertilizer business in the city of West. It was on the evening of April 17, 2013. Ten volunteer firefighters would be among the 15 people killed by the explosion.

Then last month in La Porte, workers at a DuPont pesticides plant called for help. From a 911 call from the plant: “We have five people unaccounted for; we have had a chemical release.”

Four of those workers would later be found dead, apparently overcome by chemical fumes. Continue Reading

Listening For The Call Of The Quail

Jim Willis restored his land in Colorado County with native grasses

Dave Fehling/StateImpact Texas

Jim Willis restored his land in Colorado County with native grasses

Helped by $6 million from the State of Texas, prairies west of Houston are being restored with native grasses to increase the population of Bob White Quail.

There’s something missing these days around ranches and farms just west of Houston: the unmistakable call of the Bob White Quail.

“Everybody knows that sound, “said Robert Perez, a game bird specialist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

He does a great imitation of the Bob White Quail whistle which you can hear by clicking below.

“That sound has become something folks don’t hear as much. We’ve seen massive declines,” Perez told StateImpact Texas.

Why are there fewer quail these days? Continue Reading

Oil & Gas Executives Bullish On Future

Survey says: energy executives see U.S. oil & gas outlook bright and getting brighter but worry about new EPA regulation.

John England, Deloitte’s Vice Chairman Oil & Gas Sector, at the company’s conference in Houston

Dave Fehling/StateImpact Texas

John England, Deloitte’s Vice Chairman Oil & Gas Sector, at the company’s conference in Houston

It’s been a big week already for Houston’s oil & gas industry with the proposed takeover by Halliburton of Baker Hughes. Economists say it’s one sign the industry is optimistic about the future.

Some other signs are what you’ll find in a new survey by the consulting firm Deloitte, which took the pulse of energy executives earlier this fall. The share — who felt the U.S. has already achieved energy security because it’s producing so much oil & gas — shot up to 40 percent of them from just 12 percent two years ago.

Eighty percent of them said the U.S. energy business is doing better now than it was five years ago.

Not that there weren’t any worriers. Over half the executives said they were concerned that oil prices might collapse — and this was what they said back in September, before prices dropped some 15 percent in recent weeks. Continue Reading

New Federal Regulation Coming For Oil and Gas Well Pollution

Oil & gas facilites in LaSalle County, part of the Eagle Ford Shale.

Photo by Dave Fehling.

Oil & gas facilites in LaSalle County, part of the Eagle Ford Shale.

The federal government says the oil & gas industry is the largest industrial source of pollution that creates smog. In coming months, Texas drillers could learn what the government plans to do about it.

New pollution rules could mean that thousands of oil & gas wells in Texas will have to have their leaks fixed.

“It’s an issue because we’re now drilling in heavily populated areas,” said Melanie Sattler, a researcher at the University of Texas in Arlington. Continue Reading

Texas Enviromental Regulators Question Ozone’s Impact On Health

A pollution haze over Houston East End.

Dave Fehling

A pollution haze over Houston East End.

The Texas agency that regulates industries that pollute, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, is questioning federal research into the health threat posed by breathing ozone and is using its website to publish articles that critics call “provocative” and “misleading.”

First, some background. Houston has an ozone pollution problem and so do Dallas and big cities across the country that for years have exceeded federal limits for ozone.

Ozone forms when air pollution from industrial plants and vehicles reacts to sunlight. Breathing ozone has long been considered harmful especially to people with conditions like asthma and heart disease.

In coming months, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue even stricter, lower limits for ozone which could put even more Texas cities in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. That could cost industry money to upgrade equipment to reduce pollution. And in Texas, where the state has repeatedly — and for the most part, unsuccessfully — sued the EPA to block pollution regulations, state officials are questioning whether ozone at current levels is really all that bad. Continue Reading

Does Drop In Oil Prices Make Texas Crude Too Expensive?

A Permian Basin oil rig.

Photo by Mose Buchele

A Permian Basin oil rig.

Recent financial news headlines have warned about:

  • The dangers of “falling oil.”
  • Or enduring the “Oil Crash of 2014.”
  • Or having oil producers headed for “oblivion.”

Could it really get that bad? Maybe, if it’s like it was a few decades ago.

“There were bankruptcies everywhere,” said Ed Hirs, a Houston oil man and energy economist. “Exxon laid off 50,000 employees in 1986.”

But to mimic the great oil bust of the 1980’s, prices today have a long, long way to drop. Continue Reading

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