Terrence Henry is the Austin-based online reporter for StateImpact Texas. He has worked as an editor, writer and web producer for The Washington Post and The Atlantic. He has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Brigham Young University.
Lavaca Bay in Calhoun County is one proposed site for an LNG Terminal.
As a drilling boom continues in Texas and other states, the U.S. finds itself with so much natural gas that some companies now want to export domestic fuels abroad.
Today, the federal Department of Energy (DOE) announced approval of a second facility, the Freeport LNG Terminal on Quintana Island, to export natural gas in liquid form to countries not party to free trade agreements with the U.S. That would mean that gas-hungry markets like Japan could start buying natural gas from Texas ports at much higher rates than domestic consumers.
In an interesting twist, many of these facilities for exporting natural gas already exist: they were built in recent years to import natural gas from other countries, before a fracking boom unlocked domestic supplies. The Freeport terminal only started construction in 2005. By the time it was up and running in 2008 to import natural gas, the fossil fuel balance in the U.S. had started to turn upside down. Now there’s a rush to undergo an expensive (roughly $5 billion per plant) conversion at these plants to send gas out instead of bring it in. Continue Reading →
At the Texas legislature, some things don’t stay dead for long. As time runs out for lawmakers to move dollars towards funding water, roads and education, it appears that for water, at least, an agreement may be in the works. Continue Reading →
While it's called the Railroad Commission of Texas, it actually deals with regulating oil and gas in the state. And a name change isn't likely to happen this session.
A name change and several ethics reforms on the table this legislative session for the Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees oil and gas drilling in the state, have died.
The Texas Energy Report was the first with the news, tweeting this afternoon: “RAILROAD COMMISSION SUNSET DEAD FOR THIS SESSION.”
After a lengthy review of the agency, required by state law under the Sunset review process, the Railroad Commission will continue instead with the same name and without any reforms. So what happened?
For one, there were conflicting ideas on how to reform the commission. A more industry-friendly plan in the House, HB 2166 by state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, which ended up being stripped of many of its reforms (and ultimately a name change) didn’t ever make it out of the House.
A plan from the Texas Senate would take big decisions about funding for water and roads and put them in the hands of voters.
There’s a new push at the State Capital to pull $2 Billion dollars from Texas’ Rainy Day Fund and put it towards water projects. After a recent move in the House died on the floor in dramatic fashion two weeks ago, there were real questions on whether the water plan would get funded this legislative session. Today, backers of that plan got a glimmer of hope, while opponents are concerned the state could end up spending more than it should.
The new idea is to use a resolution already passed in the state Senate, SJR 1, where lawmakers would vote to set aside two billion dollars from the rainy day fund for water. But it would put the decision to create a dedicated account for water projects to voters statewide.
“The $2 billion dollars doesn’t go into the fund unless the fund is created by the voters,” says House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts.
Why so complicated? Doing it like this, lawmakers may see a way to fund water projects without voting to break the state-mandated spending cap. That was something many Republicans were loathe to do. Continue Reading →
It’s been a good month or two for the luxury electric car manufacturer Tesla: the company just posted its first profitable quarter; it’s stock is soaring and Consumer Reports just rated the Tesla S the best car it’s ever tested. But one item on the company’s wishlist increasingly looks like it won’t be coming true: owning and operating its own dealerships in Texas.
In Texas, as in many other states, cars can only be sold through the franchise dealership system: manufacturers are not allowed to own their own dealerships. In Texas, Tesla can’t legally have dealerships, only “stores” where you can’t take a test drive, can’t find out the price of the car, and can’t purchase a Tesla. It’s a system that’s been on the books for decades, but Tesla argued before state lawmakers this session that they’re different and should be exempted from the existing rules. Because they would only sell a small number of cars, they argued, and because they don’t have the service operations of a typical dealership (tiny motor with many fewer parts = less maintenance), Tesla argued before the state legislature that state law should be changed in their favor. (Meanwhile, North Carolina’s legislature is considering banning Tesla sales — even online — entirely.)
But that appears difficult at this point in the session. With just thirteen days to go, several deadlines have come and gone without a victory for Tesla. Continue Reading →
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.
Update: The State Fire Marshal’s Office says that there are now two investigations, one into the origin and cause of the fire, led by their office and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF); and one into any potential criminal activity, spurred by the arrest of West paramedic Bryce Reed for possession of a “destructive device” earlier this morning, which state officials say is not related to the West fertilizer plant fire and explosion.
In a statement, the Fire Marshal’s office says the following:
“Due to an unrelated investigation and the recent arrest of Bryce Reed by ATF on a charge unrelated to the West Fertilizer Plant fire and explosion, the State Fire Marshal’s Office will be partnering with the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Public Safety (DPS), and ATF to ensure that all potential facts and leads related to the incidents in West are investigated to the fullest extent.”
Original story: While an official investigation by state and federal agencies into the cause of the April 17 fire and explosion at the West fertilizer plant in Central Texas continues, a criminal investigation was announced today by the state Department of Public Safety (DPS). The West fertilizer plant explosion and its aftermath killed 15 and has destroyed nearly 150 homes in the small community north of Waco.
DPS Director Steven McCraw announced today that his agency is directing the Texas Rangers to work with the McLennan County Sheriff to conduct a criminal investigation into the explosion. Continue Reading →
The aftermath of the explosion at a fertilizer plant in the small town of West, Texas had lawmakers questioning agencies on oversight and safety today.
Two weeks ago today, a fire ignited at a fertilizer plant in the small Central Texas town of West. About twenty minutes later, a massive explosion occurred, killing 15 people, injuring over 200, and destroying nearly 150 homes. Today, at the Texas Capitol, lawmakers questioned state agencies that had oversight over the plant’s safety and regulation, but didn’t get many answers.
Eight state agencies were invited to testify at the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee hearing, chaired by state Rep. Joseph Pickett, D-El Paso. As the investigation into the cause of the fire and subsequent explosion is still ongoing, many of the lawmakers questions dealt with fertilizer plant regulation in the state generally, and not whether or not the West disaster could have been avoided.
“The intent of this hearing is to try to shed light on where these facilities are located,” Pickett said at the outset. “This will be a learning process for the community at large. Ultimately, this is probably going to be a national issue.”
What became clear at today’s hearing is that among the several state agencies with oversight of fertilizer plants like West, there is no single agency tasked with safety inspections and coordinating with local governments on emergency response. Continue Reading →
While the plan for funding water has moved forward at the Capitol, last night the money for that plan seemed to stall.
Last night on the House floor, a major piece of legislation that would put $2 billion towards water projects in a growing, thirsty state met fierce resistance, ultimately falling victim to a legislative maneuver that effectively sank it.
While the legislation to create a water infrastructure bank that would give out loans for water development and conservation projects continues to move forward at the Capitol, the actual money for that bank (contained in separate legislation) proved to be a trickier issue Tuesday night.
KUT political reporter Ben Philpott sat down with StateImpact Texas’ Mose Buchele, who covered the hearing, to talk about what happened, and what happens next:
The Texas legislature will consider major legislation to help the state's water woes this week.
Time is running out for Texas legislators as the 83rd legislative session nears its conclusion. This week will see plenty of activity on bills that deal with water, eminent domain and roads. In our weekly installment, we pick some of the energy and environment legislation we’re watching this week. Think we missed something? Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.
You Can Lead a Lege to Water …
This afternoon, major legislation on water planning and funding for Texas could be heard in both the House and the Senate. HB 4, by state Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, is one of the big water bills this session. It would create a water infrastructure bank and prioritization process for new projects and conservation. That bill has already passed in the House and could come up on the Senate floor today, a potentially significant step forward. Update: the bill passed in the Senate, 30-1.
The actual money for that plan is in another bill by Ritter, HB 11, which would take $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to kickstart the water bank. That bill recently passed out of committee and will get a hearing on the House floor today. Update: the bill was sunk by a legislative maneuver. Read more here. Continue Reading →
A helmet is carried in remembrance of a firefighter from the Abbott Volunteer Fire Department killed in a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas last week.
Firefighters, public officials and thousands of Texans gathered in Waco Yesterday at Baylor University for a memorial service to remember twelve firefighters and first responders that died in the line of duty while responding to a fire at a fertilizer plant in the small town of West last week. While fighting the fire, the plant exploded, killing 15 and destroying nearly 150 homes.