The Texas Attorney General says the TCEQ, the state's environmental regulator, was not responsible for killing 23 rare whooping cranes.
UPDATE: Late Friday afternoon State Attorney General Abbot’s request to stay the ruling on TCEQ water management was denied, according to The Aransas Project, the plaintiffs in the case.
However, the language of Judge Jack’s original order (the one the state was trying to stay) was amended to allow the TCEQ to approve water permits from the Guadalupe and San Antonio River basins which are “necessary to protect the public’s health and safety.”
You can find the document denying the stay and amending the original order here.
Earlier this week, a federal judge found the state’s environmental agency guilty of violating the Endangered Species Act. The ruling, which could have implications for the water management across the state, said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) was responsible for the deaths of 23 rare Whooping Cranes. It prohibited the TCEQ from issuing new water use permits for the Guadalupe and San Antonio River unless the Agency could prove that the cranes would not be impacted.
Today, the Texas Attorney General said the state would appeal that ruling, and sought an emergency stay from the federal district court while the state plans that appeal.
When supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline said it would bring jobs to Texas, they probably weren’t talking about jobs for lawyers.
That’s just kind of how it worked out.
As property owners challenge the company’s use of eminent domain, the project to bring crude from the Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf sparked litigation all down the line. One of those property owners is Julia Trigg Crawford. She’s a farmer from North Texas who says it was too easy for the company to take her land.
Photo by Terrence Henry
Julia Trigg Crawford has been in an extended legal battle with the TransCanada pipeline company.
“The way TransCanada got to that stage is, they went to the Railroad Commission [which regulates drilling and pipelines in the state], they got the T4 form,” Crawford told StateImpact Texas, “and when they got to the box that asked if you’re a common carrier or a private carrier they checked the common carrier box.”
To be a “common carrier” means that the pipeline can be hired out by whatever entity can afford to use it, kind of like a toll road. To claim common carrier status gives the company the right to take land under state law. But in 2011, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that pipeline builders need to do more than check a box to get that power. Now, three bills at the state capital aim to overhaul the system.
Whooping Cranes return to Aransas for Winter 2009.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is tasked with safeguarding the state’s natural resources, but this week a federal judge found the Agency responsible for the deaths of 23 rare whooping cranes.
The TCEQ’s management of water flows into the Guadalupe River lead to the deaths by not allowing enough freshwater into the river, raising its levels of salinity, according to U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack.
Judge Jack found that the Agency’s actions are a violation of the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Her order mandates that the TCEQ create a habitat conservation plan for the cranes and bars the state from issuing any new water permits on the rivers without federal oversight.
But the ruling may influence water management in Texas well beyond the Guadalupe River. Continue Reading →
One of the most vocal of the bunch, Harold Doiron, was taunted at a debate held at the National Press Club in Washington DC this past January.
“Do you believe in global warming? Do you believe there’s global warming,” asked moderator Blanquita Cullum. This came after other panelists assured the audience that virtually all peer-reviewed scientific studies support that humans cause climate change and that to argue otherwise “is like debating whether cigarettes cause cancer.” Continue Reading →
The golf course at Houston's River Oaks Country Club
Certain tax exemptions will cost Texas $43.9 billion in 2013, according to a new report from the Texas Comptroller.
Two state senators say it’s time to start reviewing those tax breaks.
“We have no earthly idea what they are, what they cost, who benefits from them,” Sen. Rodney Ellis told StateImpact.
Ellis, a Democrat from Houston, and John Carona, a Republican senator from Dallas, have filed a bill that would require such tax breaks be reviewed periodically to prove they continue to make fiscal sense. For example, breaks for drilling operations enacted years ago to encourage the new and costly horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing continue to drain money from state coffers for a method that today is neither new nor relatively as costly.
Texans can add one more item to the list of reasons to love the state: It has the best market for electricity. Anywhere.. At least, according to Donna Nelson. She’s chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission.
“It’s arguably the most successful in the world,” Nelson told attendees at the IHS energy conference in Houston.
Critics of the deregulated Texas power market would certainly challenge that assertion. And Nelson made the comment as part of a panel discussion that focused on a problem with the market: It might not make enough electricity to keep the lights and air conditioners running on the hottest days. Not enough new power plants have been built.
Shark fins for sale in Texas (like the ones in the this photo from China) would be banned under proposed legislation.
We all know there are sharks in the Gulf of Mexico. But why would Texas lawmakers care? A bill that went before the Senate Natural Resources Committee Tuesday says they should.
State Senator Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, whose district includes Galveston, filed Senate Bill 572, which would outlaw the buying and selling of shark fins. Shark fins are a sought-after ingredient for shark fin soup and foods considered a delicacy in some Asian dishes. They can sell for up to $700 dollars a pound.
“What they are doing is bringing in the largest sharks that they can and clipping their fins off,” Pickett told the committee. “And, well, that just ain’t fair.”
While the process known as “finning” is banned by federal law, the sale and trade of shark fins isn’t. Only five states have enacted bans like the one Texas is considering. So why do it here? Continue Reading →
Texas is not known for robust state regulation of industry, but some lawmakers are filing bills to address the current oil and gas boom.
The original version of this story reported that Rep. Van Taylor’s HB 100 would reduce methane flaring by encouraging the capture of more methane gas. In a subsequent interview, Rep. Taylor clarified, saying it reduce Co2 emissions by making carbon gasses more valuable to drillers looking to extract more oil and gas from unitized fields.It would not reduce flaring.
In some northeastern states like New York and New Jersey, elected officials debate whether to ban the type of drilling called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” You’d be hard pressed to find talk like that from Texas lawmakers.
At a recent panel discussion hosted by StateImpact Texas, four Texas legislators from diverse political and geographic backgrounds all sang the praises of the fracking boom.
“As I tour my district, and I drive through what were once small towns and counties, what I hear is, it’s exciting, there are a lot of opportunities,” said Carlos Uresti, a Democratic State Senator from San Antonio, in a typical nod to the economic promise of the oil and gas boom.
The Webberville Solar Project outside Austin is the largest in Texas
In such a sunny place as Texas, some people think it’s a real shame to waste all that solar energy. They point out the state ranks 13th in the nation for total solar power generation, behind such often gloomy places as New Jersey (#2) and New York (#11) according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“It is a waste.Texas has the best potential in the country and we’re just falling behind,” says Luke Metzger. His group, Environment Texas, found that some of the state’s only bright spots for solar are Austin and San Antonio. The two cities had four times more solar power than the rest of Texas combined. He says it’s no coincidence those are the the two biggest cities in the state that are not in the deregulated market for electricity. Continue Reading →
Two years ago Texas’ booming Barnett Shale region was facing a slew of challenges that came along with increased oil and gas drilling. Heavy drilling trucks were destroying the roads, employees were getting poached from their everyday jobs to go work on the rigs, and residents of North Texas worried about what kind of impact all that drilling was having on the environment.
Those problems persist. But as the price of natural gas has declined, much of the drilling activity has moved south, to the Eagle Ford Shale region, where drillers can extract more valuable crude oil and liquids from the ground.