IMPORTANT HEARING TUESDAY 1:30 p.m. in AUSTIN.
There are two competing bills addressing common carrier pipeline designations currently working their way through the Texas House. WHY? Well, because, one bill favors the industry, HB 2748, authored by Rep. Tryon Lewis and one attempts to create an objective process and oversight, HB 3547, authored by Rep. Rene Oliveira.
It is critical that Texas Landowners attend this hearing and share with the committee their concerns about the common carrier pipeline designation process (or lack thereof).
Landowners need notice.
Landowners need access to the courts.
Texans deserve agencies that insure the industries they regulate follow the law.
WHAT: Business & Industry Committee Hearing on HB 3547
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, 2013 (or when the House stands adjourned, if that is later than 1:30 p.m.)
WHERE: E2.014, Texas Capitol Extension
The stuffed suits were stuffed in the room at the Sunset Advisory Commission hearing on Wednesday, December 19th. It was a terrible time to hold a hearing and it was a terribly important hearing. But was anyone really heard?
Yes, we know it’s the yuletide season, but we couldn’t celebrate the holiday without at least attempting to inform you of the broad array of community activists, landowners, pipeline safety advocates and political reformers that attended a hearing on Wednesday, December 19th, held by the Sunset Advisory Commission. The Sunset Commission was empowered by the legislature in 1977 to, ” identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in government agencies.”
Folks from across the state who are concerned with protecting our resources — land and water, in particular — testified about the need for thoroughgoing reform of the Railroad Commission.
These reforms go far beyond the proposal to simply change the name of the Commission to better reflect what it does – since the RRC’s primary function is to regulate the oil and gas industry, including pipelines. Still, the legislature has continued to fail to even change the name.
There are far deeper problems with the RRC that have been festering for years as it has really served as a lapdog for the oil and gas industry. We can begin with the fact that they are allowed to take unlimited contributions from the very industries they are regulating. (Perhaps this is why the leading “change” to the Commission continues to be the name change.) One is forced to understand why RRC member David Porter, in justification for his opposition to shutting off these contributions, that all statewide officials are allowed to do the same so why not the RRC!
We have attempted to cover at least some of the ongoing fight about the Keystone XL (TransCanada) pipeline. (And, in fairness, they’re not the only pipeline we need to worry about.) Our unlikely coalition is coming together to raise the more perplexing questions about eminent domain abuse and the intractable problems, particularly with our water supply, that could stem from a pipeline breach. Then there’s the fracking issue and the many questions that remain and new ones arising.
Perhaps our problems really aren’t all the problems listed above. Though these are not easy problems to resolve because the answers are often murky and are multi-faceted. The real problem is becoming increasingly clear to we ordinary Texans. Our officials are incapable of working together, in an honest way, through the murky details of this moment in the history of our state, country and world. There IS a real tension now between the increased scarcity of resources and the increased demands of so many people moving to Texas. What are we going to do about that, besides allow our officials to ignore the problems or carry water (pun intended) for industry — the people be damned?
Folks, they’re not going to get it until we do. We must dump the partisanship that is rendering us powerless to work together as Texans and as Americans to strike the balance and to find new and creative solutions we so desperately need.
This next legislative session is another opportunity for us to learn more as citizen activists and to build bridges to citizens across the state – rural and urban, conservatives and liberals, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens and the many more of us who just think of ourselves as plain ol’ small “i” independents.
You can watch the hearing on Wednesday here at this site. Just click on the date “Dec 19”. You’ll have to scroll through until you get to the testimony on the Railroad Commission at: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/avarchive/?yr=2012
CALL TO ACTION — here’s what you can do:
What are we asking for? At least two things:
1. To pass meaningful legislation to prohibit contributions to statewide elected officials, including the Railroad Commission, from companies (including their employees) that have business or disputes before those bodies.
2. To meaningfully close the “T4 loophole” that allows the Railroad Commission to effectively give pipeline companies the right to claim common carrier status without any oversight whatsoever. This gives pipeline companies the automatic power to use eminent domain to seize private property for private gain.
These are very modest requests in light of this report in the NY Times about our Governor and the reputation Texas has garnered for our seemingly unlimited commitment to corporate welfare: Texas Gives Industries a Bonanza
If you read this article with enough time today, December 21st, to send a comment to the Sunset Advisory Commission – click here to send an email.
If you read this after December 21st, or in addition to meeting the above request, please contact your Texas House and Texas Senate legislators (go here for a full list). Ask them to fight for FULL and REAL eminent domain and campaign finance reforms in this session.
Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year y’all! Get some rest, we’re all surely gonna need it!
Whether you can get to this important event on November 7th, in Cuero, Texas, please pass this on through your networks and call your State Representative and State Senator. Ask them to hold a similar town hall where you live to help reform eminent domain in Texas. They can’t have it both ways. They can’t say they support property rights but give pipeline operators a blank check, as is the common practice by the Texas Railroad Commission and most of our state officials.
Click here for the details on the Cuero, Texas Town Hall on Wednesday, November 7, 920 East Broadway Street: Cuero Town Hall
You might want to read this excellent article in today’s American Free Press.
Sign up on this site to get Independent Texans’ emails if you’re not already.
Debra Medina, We Texans
Terri Hall, Texans United for Reform and Freedom
Linda Curtis, Independent Texans
Here are some important updates and events:
There’s a lot of news we’re sure you’ve been reading in the regular press about the TransCanada, including this breaking news on protests in NE Texas to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. Our question is why isn’t somebody doing something to protect the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer that serves 12 million people?
Check out what these brave farmers and landowners, who call themselves the Brazos River Bottom Alliance, are doing to protect their land from seizures by Union Pacific.
Read this new piece on about how NE Texans are organizing “391 Commissions” to protect their land, water and property rights.
Farm and Ranch and Local Foods:
We have been remiss in not mentioning this important event for farmers, ranchers and the many of us who like having our food grown locally.
Click here for the details on this year’s FARFA conference in Bastrop, next Monday and Tuesday.
GMA 12 Keeping Our Water Local: (for central Texas)
A hearing on the ALCOA application for a huge (25,000 acre-feet) amount of groundwater from the acquifer serving GMA (Groundwater Management Area) 12. Click here for the details from our friends at Environmental Stewardship.
Aqua Water is also holding it’s yearly water forum, this time with Keep Bastrop Beautiful on September 18th. This is a great opportunity to ask Texas Ag Commission, Todd Staples, how we can keep groundwater local.
Cities form 391 Commission Out of Concern regarding Southern Segment of Keystone’s Tar Sand Pipeline
About one year ago, three small cities in East Texas, located south of Jacksonville, formed the East Texas SubRegional Planning Commission (ETSRPC). The ETSRPC is a 391 Commission, formed out of concern for numerous issues surrounding TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. The initial cities consisted of Gallatin and Reklaw. Later, the city of Alto also joined. All three cities are within Region 6 in the state of Texas with populations of less than 1200 citizens.
The 391 Commission is part of the Texas Government Code, established in 1987, that allows at least 2 or more cities, counties, or combination thereof, to form a sub-regional entity within a region to work together to make plans or discover answers for their communities on matters of concern.
The formation of a 391 elevates a city and/or counties position with state and federal agencies, as it gives the 391 the power of a regional government recognized by the state, requiring agencies to “coordinate” their activities around issues and answer questions regarding issues of concern.
Basically, when a 391 is formed, the groups involved have a bigger voice in what happens in regards to a project within their geographical jurisdiction. In the case of the Keystone XL pipeline, the 391 can ask questions and expect answers from agencies such as the Railroad Commission, TCEQ, Army Corps of Engineers, etc. over various issues that apply to a project or issue of concern. During the Trans-Texas Corridor controversy, several 391 Commissions were formed in opposition to the proposed road project, with the end result being the road not coming to fruition.
Gallatin, Reklaw and Alto formed the 391 Commission for the following reasons regarding the Keystone XL pipeline:
1) Water: The cities are concerned about their municipal wells being contaminated should a spill occur and what alternatives they would have to have potable water. Tar sands crude is laden with far more chemicals and pollutants than conventional crude, and these cities are also concerned about the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer that underlies their water supplies.
2) Emergency Response: A tar sand spill is a hazardous material spill. Since it is not conventional crude, there is concern regarding how these towns’ voluntary fire departments would deal with such a spill. On the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, where a tar sands spill occurred involving the Keystone Pipeline, residents were evacuated at least six miles from the spill site due to benzene and hydrogen sulfide levels that were at dangerously high exposure levels.
3) Liability and Safety: The tar sand spills in Kalamazoo, Michigan have cost more than $800 million. It was the largest and most expensive onshore spill in U.S. history according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The spill has taken more than two years to clean up. Since TransCanada doesn’t have to pay into the U.S. spill fund due to an IRS exemption, a real question that deserves a real answer is what would be the liability for these local municipalities, the county, or state should a spill occur? On TransCanada’s new Keystone 1 line, the company has already had more than twelve spills in less than one year.
The East Texas Subregional Planning Commission formed to preserve the “health, safety and welfare of their residents and plan for future development of their communities for almost any activity.” In July, the 391 Commission joined a suit against the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the water crossing permits needed by TransCanada. Currently, the suit is on appeal at the 10th circuit court in Denver.