Tanker trucks arrive at the disposal well that was site of a 2012 explosion. It's approved to inject 30,000 barrels of wastewater a day.
Some people who live in Pearsall, the South Texas town where country star George Strait grew up, said they learned they had a disposal well nearby when they heard a big boom.
“Then I saw the billows of smoke coming out,” said Henry Martinez, Pearsall’s police chief.
He’s talking about the afternoon in January 2012 when investigators say a welder’s spark ignited oil vapors at a disposal site on the edge of town.Three workers were hurt and OSHA later cited the operator for alleged violations and proposed a $46,200 penalty.
As the legislature enters its final weeks, what are the big energy issues still facing lawmakers? Sunday on KXAN StateImpact Texas’ Mose Buchele joined a panel to discuss how water, drilling and fracking are forcing legislators to make some tough decisions as things get down to the wire. You can watch their discussion in the video above.
Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010 near New Orleans, Louisiana.
Texas has announced five projects it hopes to fund with money from a settlement from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Three of them would aid in building artificial reefs along the Texas Gulf Coast — something that could prove a boon to the fishing industry and tourism.
While Texas was not hit as hard by the oil spill as neighboring Louisiana, its commercial fisheries have suffered in recent years. The spill impacted fishing and tourism in the Gulf. Then in 2011, the state delayed opening its oyster fisheries because of red tide associated with that year’s massive drought. Increased rainfall later put oysters back on the menu, but the precarious future of Texas oysters prompted Parks and Wildlife to boost construction of artificial reefs that can encourage oyster growth.
The three reef projects announced this week include:
The latest NOAA drought outlook shows possible improvement for a larger part of the state than in the past forecast.
More of Texas could begin to recover from the drought in the coming months, but it may not be soon enough to save many of the state’s crops.
The three-month outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center, released Thursday, shows a larger portion of the state possibly improving than in a previous forecast, with much of East Texas listed as “likely to improve” or having “some improvement,” however the drought is forecast to “persist or intensify” in the Western half of the state.
Though the US Drought Monitor Map released Thursday shows no difference in how much of the state is experiencing drought this week, it does show less of Texas under the two most severe drought stages. Much of this exceptional drought is in deep South Texas, where it is taking a toll on crops. Continue Reading →
After 40 minutes of discussion Thursday about a bill that would rename the Railroad Commission of Texas and make other significant changes to the agency that regulates the oil and gas industry, the Senate passed the measure with a 21-0 vote.
Senate Bill 212, carried by state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, would rename the agency the Texas Energy Resources Commission. That would reflect its current duties, which no longer include railroads .
A companion bill, House Bill 2166, is moving through the House. This morning the House Energy Resources Committee voted to forward the measure to the full House.
SB 212 would also tighten some of the ethics rules governing the Railroad Commission. The commission is headed by three elected officials, who get many of their contributions from the oil and gas groups, despite also regulating them. Continue Reading →
Each day, dozens of trucks hook up to the Gulf Coast-run fracking fluid disposal well site near Gonzales, TX. A new bill would make it easier to transfer the wastewater by pipeline instead of by truck, potentially reducing roadway damage.
Update: The Senate unanimously approved SB 514 from the floor this afternoon, according to a representative from Sen. Davis’ office.
Original Story: A bill that would reform how fracking wastewater moves to disposal wells could pass through the state Senate today.
In the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” millions of gallons of water (along with sand and chemicals) are sent deep underground to break up oil and gas deposits trapped in rock. Some of that fluid comes back up, along with high-salinity water also trapped int those formations. Since it is too dirty to drink, drillers often dispose of it by sending it back underground in a disposal well.
Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists and PhD students from Texas State University release Houston Toad tadpoles in Bastrop State Park. These pollywogs were not bred in captivity but were fostered in captivity from wild eggs. The burned remains of the lost pines are visible in the background.
If I had a list of terms I never expected to hear, “back up toads” would be on it.
But on Tuesday in Bastrop State Park, those three words were strung together without a hint of the absurd. Cassidy Johnson was doing the talking, and in the context of our interview, “back up toads” made a lot of sense.
Johnson is a Research Associate for the Houston Zoo‘s Houston Toad Program. The Zoo serves as what Johnson calls an “ark” for the endangered amphibians. It keeps a genetically diverse population of Houston Toads in captivity so it can maintain the species, even if every last wild toad is wiped out. Continue Reading →
A supercell storm west of Newcastle, Texas tries to build up strength April 9, 2013. The Texas Legislature passed a couple bills regarding water Wednesday but stopped short of discussing landmark bill HB 11.
Quicker than a spring thunderstorm, the House Natural Resources Committee met and pushed forward several bills at the Capitol this morning. While several smaller pieces of legislation were approved, representatives at the meeting managed to avoid talk of HB 11, a marquee piece of water legislation torpedoed on the House floor Monday evening.
A bill promoting rainwater collection and another regarding water loss reporting by utilities were “voted favorably as substituted.” In other words, they were voted out of committee.
The rainwater collection bill, HB 2781 by Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, would allow people with a public water supply connection to collect rainwater for potable purposes.
A man dressed as a nuclear waste drum stands in front of protesters holding hands on March 9, 2013 in the center of Paris. New legislation in Texas could promote the importation of more radioactive waste.
Update, May 1, 2013: The Senate has passed SB 791. The bill could allow states around the U.S. to import more of the “hotter” radioactive waste into a West Texas disposal facility and limit contested case hearings. Several amendments to the bill were passed, including ones that would make generators of radioactive waste responsible for the cost of transportation accident cleanup, allow for random audits of shipments of radioactive waste into the site and affect the Compact Commission Executive Director’s ability to modify disposal licenses. The bill now moves to the House Environmental Regulation Committee.
Original story, March 26, 2013: A controversial new bill could encourage states from around the country to send waste with higher levels of radiation to Texas. The legislation prompted some heated debate at a Senate Natural Resources Committee meeting today at the Capitol.
The bill, SB 791, by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would allow “hotter” radioactive waste into West Texas’ only radioactive waste disposal site, which started running last year after many years of controversy and debate, which continued in part today. 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 →
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