Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Ben Philpott, KUT News

State Reporter Ben Philpott hosts Agenda Texas for KUT-FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.

  • Email: Bphilpott@kut.org

The Texas Drought’s Over, But The Texas Slow-Motion Water Crisis Is Not

Texas Drought Map.

US Drought Monitor

Texas Drought Map.

The latest drought report from the Texas Water Development Board has some good news. After more than five years, spring rains saturated the ground enough to finally end our long drought — our long soil moisture drought. But that doesn’t mean water shortages don’t still plague some parts of the state, and that water challenges wont stay with Texas into the foreseeable future.

“So we have hydrologic drought,” says Robert Mace with the Texas Water Development Board.

He says the ground is doing great, but parts of the state need much more rain to replenish their reservoirs.

“If you look at Lake Abilene, which is, believe it or not…3.4 percent full. And that was last full in 2011. Another example is Lake Meredith, up north of Amarillo, [which is] 15.6 percent full currently,” Mace says.

Mace is optimistic those and the rest of the state’s reservoirs can recover this winter, when El Niño conditions are expected to bring us more rain.

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Why Rick Perry’s Remarks on Gays Could Sour Tesla on Texas

RIck Perry gives GOP delegates at the state convention a thumbs up in June 2014.

Ben Philpott/KUT

RIck Perry gives GOP delegates at the state convention a thumbs up in June 2014.

From KUT News: 

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has made a career out of visiting, recruiting, and relocating businesses from California to Texas. But as the state’s GOP continues to push further and further to the right of the political spectrum, could the state’s ultra-conservative stance hurt recruitment from a progressive state?

First came the Texas Republican Party platform that said homosexuality is a choice and endorsed therapy aimed at “curing” people of being gay – a therapy banned in California.

Then, while on a company recruitment trip – one specifically aimed at enticing California based car maker Tesla to build a factory in Texas – Gov. Perry told a group of businesspeople that homosexuality was like alcoholism: whether or not you feel compelled to do something, you have the ability not to act on your urges. Continue Reading

All About the Texas Ag Commissioner: Farms, Gas Pumps and School Lunches

The Texas Ag Commissioner's role is about much more than just farming.

Photo by DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

The Texas Ag Commissioner's role is about much more than just farming.

When Texans – mostly farmers and ranchers – sat down to write the state constitution in the 1800s, they didn’t see the need for an elected Agriculture Commissioner.

That oversight was quickly remedied.

Texas agriculture, crops and cattle are known across the country and around the world. Its “Go Texan” campaign can be seen in grocery stores and TV ads across the state: Why buy vegetables from California, when you can pick from that (noticeably labeled) batch from Texas?

But the office does more than sell the product. It also helps farmers and ranchers successfully grow it.

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