Texas House pushes for more aggressive rainy day investing
AUSTIN — The state comptroller would have to take a bit more risk investing most of the money in the rainy day fund under a bill the House approved Thursday.
Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, said his measure is about “being safe” with taxpayer dollars but also “being a better steward.”
Even if Comptroller Susan Combs continued to invest the rainy day money very conservatively, she could earn about 3 percent interest on slightly more than half of the fund balance over the next two years, Branch said. The more aggressive approach would generate about $450 million in additional earnings, he said.
The bill would require about $4.3 billion of the $8 billion currently in the rainy day fund to continue to be kept in highly liquid, low yield assets.
They are not all that different from cash, said Branch and another author of the bill, Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls.
Branch invoked a parable from the Bible as he urged colleagues to put at least some of the money to better use.
“We shouldn’t be burying our treasure,” he said.
Read more here…
Housing in short supply as oil boom ignites West Texas economy
Across the fields of the Permian Basin, drilling is in full swing. From loaded trucks flooding roads to hiring signs posted on Interstate 20, the massive oil boom in West Texas is driving the economy out of a long depression.
It’s the sizzle that keeps Susan Fisher busy. The co-owner of Pancake Alley in Odessa is feeding more diners than ever before.
“As far as business, it’s great,” Fisher said. “I’m glad to see it. It’s better for us.”
But some of her customers are concerned.
“We are getting punished for all the new folks coming into town,” said Odessa resident Jeff Corning. “We are spending so much money just to get by.”
Water rates, traffic accidents, and the cost of housing have all increased. Rents have nearly tripled since the boom began three years ago.
Why the Texas Grid May Need a Coal Plant to Keep Running This Winter
From: State Impact
After a coal power plant said they’ll be shutting down some of their units over the winter, the group behind the Texas grid announced last week that it may pay them to keep running anyways.
But that group, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), insists it’s not because the grid needs to “keep the lights on” for demand reasons. It’s because the transmission lines used by those coal power plants need to have a certain amount of juice running through them, or the grid won’t work correctly.
“The whole purpose of the transmission system is to get power from power plants to consumer loads,” explains Dan Woodfin, ERCOT’s Director of Grid Operations. “When a generator shuts down, that changes the power flows on that transmission system. So we have to make sure that we can get power from the remaining power plants to higher loads.”
Oil, Gas Boom Makes School Districts Rich but Uneasy
From: Texas Tribune
School districts can get rich just as fast as the people in the oil bidness, and the poor-to-rich whiplash can have some weird aftereffects.
Texas public schools get about half of their money, on average, from property taxes. And when the property turns out to be sitting on top of the Eagle Ford Shale play, the sudden changes in wealth can produce fiscal temblors in the schools.
Some, like the Dilley Independent School District, see an influx of money and get to keep it. Others, like Cotulla ISD, see the money come in but don’t get to keep it for very long.
Dilley, southwest of San Antonio on Interstate 35, has seen property values balloon to about $275 million from $130 million two years ago, according to Nobert Rodriguez, the superintendent. It is by most measures a poor school district — one that gets money from the state to supplement what can be raised from local property taxes.
Texas Sees Rising Tide of Property-Rights Cases
From: Texas Tribune
The case of Julia Trigg Crawford versus theKeystone XL oil pipeline will soon return to the headlines.
Crawford, a northeast Texas farmer, is fighting to keep TransCananda, the pipeline’s owner, from invoking the right of eminent domain to cross her property. A Lamar County judge ruled against her last month, but Crawford says she plans to file an appeal soon — probably to the state’s 6th Court of Appealsin Texarkana.
“We feel good about a panel of judges” hearing the case for the court, she says.
Eminent domain rules, the issue at stake in the Crawford case, allow pipelines or other utilities to cross the property of unwilling landowners (who get compensated). Texas has thousands of pipelines, but the Keystone XL has drawn national attention because it would transport an especially dirty form of oil, a prospect that infuriates environmentalists.
Moving Crude Relies on Aging Pipeline System
From: State Impact
When Jed Clampett was “shootin’ at some food and up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude,” TV viewers might have thought it was funny. But as it turns out, some of crude oil pipelines in use today in the United States were built about the same time The Beverly Hillbillies hit the air on CBS in 1962. And when the crude comes bubblin’ up from pipelines now? It’s not so funny.
“In 2010, several systems that remain in service today already exceeded fifty years in age, with no major plans to retire existing infrastructure based on … age alone,” said a panel of pipeline executives in “Crude Oil Infrastructure”, a report to the National Petroleum Council. The panel warned that while age doesn’t always matter, “integrity issues,” including corrosion and failure of welded seams, “will become more common due to a number of age related issues.”
Old Pipelines, New Direction
The age issue has come up as the pipeline industry undergoes a major shift in the direction of crude oil piped through Texas. Imported oil once arrived along the Gulf Coast and was then piped northward. Now, with domestic production increasing in states including Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota and also in Canada, the flow is reversing.
A Look At Natural Gas Production In Texas
From: State Impact
Texas leads the nation in natural gas production, holding around 23 percent of the nation’s natural gas reserves. Natural gas is primarily methane (CH4) and is considered to be a more environmentally friendly fuel than oil. Methane is a nonreactive hydrocarbon, which means its emissions do not react with sunlight to create smog.
Natural gas is used for heating, generating electricity and making transportation fuel. It is also a raw material found in plastics, medicines, fertilizers and dyes. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 22 percent of energy consumption in America comes from natural gas.
Natural gas in Texas was first discovered as a by-product of oil. As oil production and exploration increased, gas production began to rise, peaking in 1972 with a total of 9.6 trillion cubic feet produced annually in Texas. Texas has maintained a steady level of natrual gas production with the help of the discovery of major natural gas fields such as Newark, East field in North-Central Texas, the Carthage field in East Texas, thePanhandle, West field in the Anadarko Basin, and the Giddings field in the Gulf Coast Basin. Texas natural gas production levels have also been maintained by an increasing number of production wells, which are now at an all-time high. Today many of the new exploration and production activities in Texas involve natural gas rather than oil.
Solar power can help the Texas grid meet power needs
From: My SanAntonio
Solar power, once viewed as an unlikely generator of electricity needed to meet peak power demand, is gaining new fans as a way to boost power generation.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the operator of the Texas grid, faces a challenge in meeting demand in future years.
“One thing that’s clear to me is that solar will help,” Public Utility Commission member Rolando Pablos told an audience of about 200 Tuesday at the Texas Energy Symposium.
The panel discussion, held at the Pearl Stable, focused on ways solar can help ERCOT meet demand.
ERCOT CEO Trip Doggett said the state’s growth has boosted demand for electricity. In the past nine years, energy consumption has jumped 17.5 percent, and peak demand has increased 13.8 percent.
Oil Prosperity Delivers Economic Stimulus To TX
From: Daily Markets
The oil boom in the North Dakota Bakken area has been getting a lot of attention lately due to the phenomenal increases in production there over the last few years, but there’s also an oil boom going in Texas as well, thanks to the same advanced drilling technologies that are turbo-charging oil output in North Dakota.
The chart above shows daily oil production in Texas, which exceeded 1.8 million barrels per day in both April and May, reaching the highest level of production in more than 20 years going all the way to 1991. Even though North Dakota oil production has increased six-fold over the last six years moving the state ahead of both California and Alaska in the last year to become the No. 2 oil-producing state, oil production there of 666,000 b.p.d. in June is only about one-third of the oil output in No. 1 Texas at 1.834 million b.p.d. in May.
Here’s a recent account from the Houston Chronicle of the oil boom going on in West Texas in the Permian Basin, which is booming along with the Eagle Ford Shale area of South Texas, and has helped boost the state’s oil production by 66% over the last two years (see chart above).
What’s Texas Losing in its War on the EPA?
From: State Impact Texas
If you search for “EPA” on the website of the Texas Attorney General, you’ll find news releases touting how Greg Abbott is defending Texas against the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“Texas Prevails Against EPA,” says one headline.
“Court Grants Texas Motion to Stay EPA’s Legally Flawed Cross-State Air Pollution Rule,” says another.
And there are lots more about how “Attorney General Greg Abbott Files Challenge” to the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations.
Or to the EPA’s “Tailpipe Rule.”
Or to the EPA’s “Unlawful Attempt to Takeover State Air Permitting.”
Why so many lawsuits against the federal agency that claims it’s just trying to protect us from breathing dirty air?