Refinery workers in Veracruz finish their shift. Mexican gov't statistics indicate mounting theft from pipelines that ferry refined gasoline from here to Mexico City. (photo: Lorne Matalon) ​

In Mexico, Oil and Gas Theft from Pipelines is on the Rise

The earthquakes in Mexico have not damaged the nation’s pipeline system, a system that U.S. companies are looking to invest in. For the past three years, the Mexican oil & gas market has been open to foreign companies — for the first time since 1938. U.S. energy companies looking to enter Mexican energy market are hedging their bets while the country grapples with what the gov’t says is mounting theft of oil and gasoline from its pipelines.


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Photo credit: NOAA

La Niña could reverse Texas’ drought trend

By Caroline Halter

Less than one percent of Texas is currently experiencing drought conditions. That’s down from 10 percent at the beginning of August. But, La Niña could change that.


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Mario, Alice and Rene Rivera (Courtesy of Mario Rivera, 1970s)

Voices of Blackwell: Mario Rivera

The “Voices of Blackwell” series is a partnership with the Blackwell School Alliance, whose mission is to preserve the history of Hispanic education in Marfa. The segregated institution was open from the late nineteenth century and closed in 1965 with the integration of schools in town. The first story we hear is from Mario Rivera who attended Blackwell in the fifties and went on to become Presidio County’s Treasurer for 32 years.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/westoneyes/16643578957/in/photolist-8dJwAt-8Ze3uV-8dJwLt-p4oQic-oKUvWf-p1nkLd-3nRpec-p3d4uw-oMKgUU-9GCbHf-2D8eX-2D8f1-2D8eY-hHi7u-hHi7z-hHi7x-8dMM9Q-8dJwRr-8dMLVb-58bRFB-58gaJy-58geC5-58gfTW-58bVVp-58g9Vj-58bS3Z-58c1X4-58g1pq-57fSYq-57fBNL-rmJGaT-2D8eW-hHi7y-hHi7A-2D8eZ-hHi7v-hHj9U-57fBzf-e8DWQD-e7Uhjk-5Anz-seznLV-iJR2kU-5ZuBjg-9WuyeZ-5rqZGu-5rmDmx-ebonuu-5wMWf9-5SWVt7

(Durant Weston via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Report: Is Permian Tight Oil Growth Sustainable?

A new study suggests oil production in the Permian Basin could peak as early as 2021 due to geological constraints. This was the downside scenario gamed out by researchers with industry intelligence company Wood Mackenzie.

“We’re going to drill really really hard for the next 3 or 4 years, we’re going to exhaust a lot of parent locations, we’re going to keep drilling but we’re going to be drilling into pressure-depleted areas,” researcher Robert Clarke said in a Wood Mackenzie podcast.

Clarke said in this downside scenario, there will still be a lot of drilling, just of smaller “child” wells.

“Taking that downside scenario case forward, even in 2030 the Permian is still producing just shy of 30 million barrels a day. So this isn’t a story of it peaks and it’s finished,” said Clarke.

Another scenario considered in the report looks at how advances in technology could actually lead to widespread, more efficient fracking. This upside scenario saw production peak at 5.6 million barrels a day in 2025.

The Children's Health Insurance Program provides health care coverage to millions of children in families too poor to buy insurance and not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. GABRIEL CRISTÓVER PÉREZ / KUT

400,000 Texas Kids Could Lose Health Insurance. Congress Has Two Weeks To Prevent It

A federal program that provides health insurance for about 390,000 Texas children must be reauthorized by Congress by the end of the month.

Most of the children in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP, are in working-class families. These are families who are too poor to buy insurance on their own, don’t have an employer that offers insurance and are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.


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Attorney Nina Morrision gets a hug from John Nolley after the Bedford man was released from custody after nearly 19 years behind bars on May 17, 2016 in Fort Worth due to efforts by The Innocence Project. Nolley had been found guilty of murder in 1998. Photo by PAUL MOSELEY / FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM

A Lying Jailhouse Snitch Sent A Man To Prison; Texas Passed A Law To Prevent That

John Nolley always insisted he didn’t kill his friend. He spent nearly 19 years locked up for the gruesome murder. Then, a judge released him from prison, citing evidence that undermined the jailhouse informant who testified against him – evidence never given to his lawyers during the trial. | via KERA News.


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The Children of the Confederacy Creed, which was installed inside the Capitol in the late 1950s, states that the Civil War was not fought over slavery. Photo by JORGE SANHUEZA-LYON / KUT

Speaker Joe Straus Calls For Removal Of Confederate Plaque From Capitol

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus is calling for a plaque honoring the Confederacy in the state Capitol to come down, via KUT News.


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Photo by Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Texas Rep. Kel Seliger Seeks Re-election

Texas Senator Kel Seliger announced today he’s seeking re-election.  


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RYAN POPPE / TEXAS PUBLIC RADIO

Texas Democrats Remain Silent About Who Will Lead Their 2018 Ticket

The start of the 2018 election cycle is just around the corner and Democrats remain silent on who will be at the top of their ticket.  Political experts believe the party may now be frantic to find a candidate for the job, via Texas Public Radio.


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Celebrating Mexican Independence on the Border

On the evening of September 15th, 1810 Mexican priest Miguel Hidalgo started the Mexican War of Independence with a ring of church bells and a call to arms – the “Grito de Dolores”. More than two centuries later, the cries continue. At an event hosted by the Mexican Consulate, musicians, students and community members from Texas and Mexico gathered for Independence Day festivities in the border town of Presidio, Texas.

Folkloric dancers pose for photos at Mexican Independence Day celebrations in Presidio, Texas. Photo by Elizabeth Trovall.

 

 

 

 

The Valero refinery, seen from across the ship channel in Houston on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. Photo by Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

EPA won’t release benzene levels collected post-Harvey; private tests show elevated levels

Environmental groups hired a private firm after the flooding and found higher than normal levels of dangerous chemicals in the air around a refinery, via Texas Tribune.


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Photo by Sasha von Oldershausen

Voices of the Border: Jesus Torres

Jesus Torres graduated from one of the last classes of Blackwell, a segregated school for children of Mexican descent in Marfa. The school closed its doors in 1965. His experience at Blackwell would inspire him to become a teacher himself. This is his story.

 


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People line up outside of the University Co-op in Austin to vote last November. State law requires high schools to hand out voter registration applications to eligible students twice a school year. Photo by GABRIEL CRISTÓVER PÉREZ / KUT

It’s Texas Law To Help High School Students Register To Vote. Why Isn’t It Happening?

Texas hasn’t been enforcing compliance with a 30-year-old law requiring public and private high schools to hand out voter registration applications to eligible students at least twice a school year, civil rights groups say.

It’s basically up to high schools to make the law work. But only 6 percent of schools in Texas are asking the state for registration forms, says Beth Stevens, voting rights director with the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP). Advocates say state officials need to do more.


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Texas Company Acquires Acreage in the Permian Basin

A Woodlands, Texas-based oil and gas company has made its first reported acquisition and the young company is taking root in the Permian Basin.


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The Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C., on June 7, 2017. Photo: Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

Supreme Court puts redrawing of Texas political maps on hold

In separate orders issued Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked two lower court rulings that invalidated parts of the state’s congressional and House maps where lawmakers were found to have discriminated against voters of color, putting on hold efforts to redraw those maps, via Texas Tribune.


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Aurcana Silver Exploration Drilling Continues in Shafter Ghost Town

The Vancouver-based Aurcana Corp. is drilling exploration holes at the company’s mineral deposits in Shafter, Texas. Four of six total exploration core holes have been completed. The drilling program tested silver and gold deposits.


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Father Mike officiates a wedding in Presidio, Texas.

Voices of the Border: Father Mike

Father Mike is a pastor at the Catholic church in Presidio, Texas. He moved to the United States in the late 1980s from his hometown in the Phillppines. He’s since made West Texas his home. Living in the small border town has lent perspective to his own immigrant experience. This is his story.


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Aerial views show severe damage and flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 28, 2017. Photos by Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

Hurricane Harvey highlights the role of immigrant labor in Texas economy

By Caroline Halter

The Trump administration’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA was expected. But it comes as Hurricane Harvey recasts a spotlight on the role of immigrant labor in Texas.


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Demonstrators call on President Trump not to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, outside the Department of Public Safety on Aug. 29. GABRIEL CRISTÓVER PÉREZ / KUT

Trump Will Allow DACA To Expire – Unless Congress Authorizes The Policy

The Trump administration decided today to phase out the Obama-era program that protects from deportation people who were brought to the United States illegally as children, via KUT News.


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In El Paso, these Students Actively Wait for Trump’s DACA Decision

President Trump has decided to allow the Obama-era policy known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, to expire. The program has protected three-quarters of a million young immigrants, living here without papers. Some are students. There are many in Texas who will feel the sting of a new federal policy, especially in the city of El Paso.


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Geri-Ann Hernandez talks on the phone with the car insurance company for her Toyota Camry. She says the company told her it’s probably totaled. JORGE SANHUEZA-LYON / KUT NEWS

Houston Homeowners Face Another Daunting Task: Navigating The FEMA Aid Process

As the waters begin to recede in Southeast Texas, those affected by hurricane Harvey have more challenges ahead. One of those daunting tasks includes applying for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


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AT&T Outage in the Big Bend Region

AT&T has reported a cut fiber optic line in the Fort Stockton area, which has caused a disruption in both land and cellular service. According to AT&T Government Relations, a crew is working on it and they hope to have service restored early this evening.

UPDATE: Chemical Plant’s Smokes Not Toxic, Authorities Confirm; Pence To Meet With Harvey Victims in Corpus

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez confirmed that smokes from explosions at the Crosby plan are not a danger for community, via Houston Public Media.


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A frack operation in​​ the Permian Basin of Texas, the nation's highest-producing oilfield. The Permian was once the floor of an ancient seabed that today is laden with hydrocarbons ; Lorne Matalon

New Approach In Texas To Cutting Use Of Fresh Water In Fracking

MIDLAND, Texas—Water in west Texas is both an environmental issue and a major stress on overhead for oil and natural gas producers in the Permian Basin. A private- public partnership in Midland is trying to address both concerns at the same time.

Hydraulic fracturing (known colloquially as fracking) is unlocking once inaccessible oil and gas in the country’s highest producing oilfield. Perfected in Texas, fracking has changed the global dynamics of  oil and gas. Right now, U.S. oil production trails only Saudi Arabia but not by much. But a U.S. Geological Survey study finds that on average, oil and natural gas fracking uses more than 28 times the water it did 15 years ago. A well typically uses between two and eight million gallons of water which the study says puts farming and drinking sources at risk in arid places Texas.
Fracking, now banned in New York state, injects industrial amounts of sand, water and chemicals into the ground—-at high pressure—-to release trapped oil and natural gas. The American Geological Union says fracking takes place in places where water may become scarcer in a warming world, including Texas, the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains—regions hit by drought during parts of the last five years. When it comes to fracking and water use, one mitigating tactic may lie within the wastewater treatment plant in Midland, Texas. It’s the site of a new partnership between Midland and Irving, Texas-based Pioneer Natural Resources. The deal simultaneously addresses city finances, environmental responsibility and oil and gas production. Pioneer is paying to upgrade the plant, which will ultimately save Midland 110 million dollars.

Midland Mayor Jerry Morales summed up the deal as a boon to the taxpayer.

“(It is) a savings for the citizens of Midland by not having to go after any debt or affect our budget,” he described it. In return for paying for the upgrade at the water treatment plant in Midland, Pioneer gets to move some of that treated water to its oilfields saving hundreds of millions of gallons of fresh water.

“We made a commitment several years ago that we need to move away from fresh water,” explained Pioneer’s Executive Chairman, Scott Sheffield at Energy Week 2017, an annual gathering of energy experts hosted by the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute and UT’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law and Business.

Sheffield told me Pioneer isn’t just doing this to help the environment. It’s also about saving money on the cost and transport of water to the oilfield. “We’re doing it at a price which is much less than what it costs to truck fresh water in,” he continued. Sheffield said this all began several years ago.

“We put together a geologic team to look for formations below the fresh water sands. And we found several sources of water there. We went to the cities of Midland and Odessa. And we’ve worked out agreements with them to use rated wastewater.”

So now the question is, can this be replicated? Energy consultant Kinnon Goleman in Austin says yes. He cited Concho Resources, another major player in the Permian Basin that has its own, similar deal with Odessa.

“Originally everyone thought we had to do it with freshwater. In the last 15 years we’ve learned  that we don’t  have to use nearly as clean a water, or fresh water” said Goleman.

Goleman said this kind of private-public partnership is a good fit for cities such as Midland and Odessa given their rapid population growth. Upgrading a wastewater treatment plant is expensive and cumbersome. But it has to be done to meet government certifications. Meantime, oil and gas interests save on one of the biggest strains on their overhead.

“Lowering the cost of drilling and completing the well is very, very significant. And it’s been changing rapidly and part of it is the water equation,” Goleman continued.

To get more context on the relationship between energy production and water use, I spoke with Michael Webber of the University of Texas at Austin. He is Deputy Director of the school’s Energy Institute and the author of “Thirst for Power:Energy, Water, and Human Survival,” a work that considers how both resources, energy and water, can be sustained.

“I think this kind of deal will be replicated,” said Webber, though he explained not quite everywhere. He said the mix of heavy drilling and stress on water supplies found in the Permian Basin isn’t universal. But he does think society will at some point abandon the notion that water is an inexhaustible resource. And that, he said, will spur innovation in the way water is deployed and paid for in energy production.

“When you have the situation with oil and gas companies that have a lot of money and need water and you you have big users like cities or agricultural operations that have a lot of water and need money, then his is the perfect opportunity for a trade. And because that water is worth so much money to oil and gas, it’s worth more money per barrel to oil and gas than it is to a farmer, because the oil and gas operation can take a barrel of water and produce a lot of money with it, they’re willing to invest that money. That’s the right set of ingredients for it.”
Webber believes it will ultimately be the free market and not only environmental concerns that may change the way freshwater is deployed in energy production.

NRC Reviews Andrews Site for High-Level Nuclear Waste Storage

Nuclear Waste — a problem that’s been looming over the country for several decades. Unable to find a permanent geological repository for the toxic stuff produced by nuclear power plants, the federal government began looking for communities that would be receptive to temporarily housing the waste. Andrews was one of the towns that stepped up.

Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists  has been storing low-level nuclear waste in Andrews since 2012. Low-level waste consists of items that have been exposed to radiation. But in 2016, the company filed an application to expand the current operation to to store high-level nuclear waste, the highly radioactive byproduct of nuclear reactors.  The application seeks a license to store 40,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste, initially coming from decommissioned power plants. This site would be an interim storage facility. However in this case, interim could mean a hundred years. The expansion process would take place over twenty years in eights phases and require further review from the NRC.

Some people are not too excited about the potential of housing high-level nuclear waste in Texas. Tom Smith, better known as “Smitty,” is with an advocacy group called “No Nuclear Waste Aqui.” They oppose WCS’ application to serve as the interim site. He says, “This is really serious toxic stuff. What everybody says is, ‘Oh well don’t worry, the federal government will come in here and build that repository and move it.’ Well I’m not bettin’ on it and people out in this part of the world shouldn’t either.”

Like Smitty, some are worried that once the waste gets to Andrews, it won’t ever get moved. James Park is the environmental project manager for WCS’ application.  He explains, “To say that it’s a de facto final solution this, particular license wouldn’t resolve that issue, nor say that it is the final resting place.” The waste is currently being stored near the power plants that produced it. Legally, the federal government is responsible for storing the waste, but without a permanent repository, the plants have been stuck with the storage bill.

The commission is still in the very early stages of the environmental review for Waste Control Specialists’ application. Park, the environmental manager, says he’s heard a range of concerns like transportation of the waste around the country, economic concerns and water contamination.

In mid-February, the NRC held a public meeting in Andrews to hear comments about the potential site expansion. About 300 people showed up, and seemed split evenly between supporters and opponents. Julia Wallace is the executive director of the Andrews Chamber of Commerce.  To her and many of the residents, WCS is a welcome presence. She says, “It’s been really good for our economy, it’s brought it in a lot of good paying jobs and really good people.”

The town receives 5% of the gross revenue from low level nuclear waste storage. That’s amounted to nearly $8.5 million dollars since 2012- a lot for a small town. The state of Texas also receives a percentage –  $40 million so far, according to WCS. Both the town and the state expect to receive similar percentages of profits for storing high level nuclear waste.  

At the meeting, several people came from all over Texas and neighboring New Mexico to express their opinions on the site. Those that opposed the expansion voiced concerns that the largely hispanic community didn’t understand what was being proposed, and concerns about the environment.  Elizabeth Padilla is a lifelong resident, and says, ” I definitely think that our children’s life and health, our health should really not have the cost whatsoever. It’s our health first. I understand that WCS would take all kinds of safety precautions and measures. But there’s always going to be that risk.”

In response to these safety concerns, Rod Baltzer, WCS’ chief executive,  feels confident that the company is capable of protecting the public and the company’s workers. Baltzer says, “We monitor that very closely. We’ve got several safety professionals. In fact, about 1/3 of our staff is radiation and occupational safety environmental and those other items like that to make sure we run a very compliant, safe organization.”

Smitty, from “No Nuclear Waste Aqui,” isn’t convinced. He thinks that once people learn more about risks associated with high-level nuclear waste, they’ll start to change their minds. He brought up the that when a long-term repository was considered for Yucca Mountain in Nevada, citizens of the state were not happy with the idea. He says, “[T’he more they learned, the angrier they got, and the more studies they funded, and the more evidence came out saying, ‘This is a really bad place to put it.’ And I think the same thing will happen here.”

The NRC’s review will determine whether or not Waste Control Specialists will receive a license to expand the site. The commission will be receiving public comments through March 13th of this year, and a final licensing decision is expected to be made in 2019.

Protesters follow hand-painted signs to the Two Rivers camp in Presidio County. (Sally Beauvais)

Protesters Continue Direct Action Planning as Pipeline Nears Completion

As protesters in Standing Rock clean up camp and head home, Sioux Tribes in North and South Dakota are still battling in court to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Their fight has inspired protesters who are trying to stop pipeline construction in other parts of the country.  In the Big Bend Region of Texas, construction on the Trans-Pecos Pipeline is nearly complete.

Destiny Willcuts is a native Lakota Sioux. She left Standing Rock with her mother when extreme winter weather hit the area. They headed south, to a newly erected pipeline protest camp in Presidio County, Texas.

“I didn’t want to give up the fight so I just decided to head to another front line,” Willcutts says.
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Vandalized Terlingua Ruins ; Voni Glaves

Terlingua Ghost Town Ruins Vandalized

Four 125-year-old, stone landmarks in the Terlingua Ghost Town were vandalized over the weekend.

The ruins, homes of quicksilver miners built in the late 1880’s, are located on private property which has been designated a historic sight near the Starlight Theater, and have become a popular tourist destination for visitors to the far-west Texas town.

Workers of the Starlight Theater said they did not notice anything out of the ordinary when they left for the night after the late shift Saturday, but upon returning the next morning found the structures had been knocked down.

Officials are asking anyone who was in the area and may have witnessed any unusual or suspicious behavior to contact the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office at (432) 837-3488.

A reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and capture of those responsible.

Mexican soldiers work in the mountains of Sinaloa burning this marijuana field, part of an eradication program supported by the United States. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

US-Mexico Intelligence Cooperation Braces For Possible Change

Intelligence cooperation between Mexico and the United States has become closer in the last decade on issues important to both countries such as illegal immigration, border security, drugs and human trafficking. But that critical intelligence relationship may be under examination in Mexico. The country is trying to fashion a response to a suite of economic threats issued by the new U.S. administration. And security is one serious chip to play.


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(Left to right) John McKirgan, John-Chau Nguyen, Cinthya Roman, Brian Smith and James Park of the NRC.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Hosts Public Meeting in Andrews, TX

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is in the early stages of an environmental review for Waste Control Specialists’ application to expand its low-level nuclear waste facility in Andrews to include a portion of the nation’s high-level nuclear waste. On Wednesday night, the commission held a public meeting in Andrews, Texas to hear comments about a plan to expand the existing site. 


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Quarterly Board Meeting is Coming Up Soon (Saturday, February 18th)

Marfa Public Radio and West Texas Public Radio will be hosting a quarterly board meeting this Saturday at 12 p.m. until around 2 p.m.

The meeting is open to the public. If you would like to attend, we will be in the board room inside of the Marfa Public Radio building in Marfa,  located at 106 E San Antonio Street.

 

 

WOCINTECH CHAT/FLICKR (CC BY 2.0)

Librarians Are on the Front Lines in the Fight Against Fake News

From Texas Standard:

Fake news is all over the place – you’ve probably got at least a few people in your Facebook feed that share it. Even some of our elected officials Tweet it out.

But across the nation, educators are ramping up efforts to teach students how to discern real the information from what’s fake. Librarians are at the forefront of that fight for media literacy in schools, colleges and beyond.
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VOTE! What Do You Want To Know About Lawmaking in Texas?

For the last few weeks, we’ve been asking what you wanted to know about the Texas Legislature: how it works, why it works the way it does and what you want lawmakers to do. And you didn’t disappoint! We received questions from all corners of Texas. Now it’s your change to vote for your favorite. Which query do you want answered?

It’s all part of a project we’re calling “Texas Decides.” We want to shine some light on the often confusing inner workings of the Texas Capitol.

We’ve teamed up with public radio stations across Texas KUT in Austin, Texas Public Radio in San Antonio, Houston Public Media, and KERA in Dallas – to collect and answer your questions about the Texas Legislature over the next few months.

We want your voice to be heard as we cover the state Capitol, so vote for your favorite question or send in one of your own! What are you wondering? Let us know by filling out the form below. Just use the form below.

Valentine, T Post Office ; Elise Pepple

Valentine’s Day in Valentine, Texas

It’s Valentine’s Day – a holiday marked by cupid’s arrows, those chalky yet traditional candy hearts that seem to only appear around this time of the year, and of course showing the ones you love, well love.

People from all over the world celebrate his holiday of love and appreciation for their partners, and one of the hotspots when it comes to the holiday is…Valentine, Texas, Where thousands of people, from all over the world – every year – send their love letters to be forwarded from the post office there.

Stacks of fresh vegetables from Mexico await loading into north-bound trucks at the McAllen Produce Terminal. (Douglas Young/Texas Tribune)

Texas agriculture experts: Mexico may retaliate if U.S. imposes tariffs

Texas agricultural producers say if the White House slaps a tariff on Mexican products, the state’s farmers and ranchers — as well as Texas consumers — could suffer from a Mexican retaliation against U.S. exports.

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump said the border wall he promised to build between Mexico and the United States could be paid for by placing a 20 percent tax on all Mexican imports. Hours later, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer clarified that this proposal was just one of many approaches currently under review by the administration.

Mexico’s economy minister, Idelfonso Guajardo, said in an interview with Mexican television that his country would need to be prepared to “immediately neutralize” the impact of any U.S. border tax.

“And it is very clear how – take a fiscal action that clearly neutralizes it,” he said.
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22-year-old Alpine student Zuzu Verk had been missing since October 12, 2016 (Alpine Police Department)

Alpine Remains Identified as Missing Student Zuzu Verk

The Brewster County Sheriff’s Office announced this afternoon that the remains found Friday morning near Alpine have been positively identified to be missing Sul Ross student Zuzu Verk. 

Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson said the identification was made this afternoon by the medical examiner’s office of the Dallas Institute of Forensic Science — where the remains were sent over the weekend. Dodson said the identification was made through dental records.

Alpine Police Chief Russell Scown added that Chris Estrada has been arrested in connection with the case.
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A Pemex gas station in front of Pemex headquarters, Mexico City. The state-owned agency is dealing with several challenges as it participates in Mexico's deregulated energy markets. (Lorne Matalon)

Mexico’s Energy Reform And Pemex: Both Challenged As US Energy Sector Watches

MEXICO CITY–President Donald Trump says he’ll renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. That has a lot of businesses that do cross border trade concerned. That includes some U.S. energy executives though energy was excluded from NAFTA. American energy companies such as Exxon Mobil, led until recently by new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, are now pitching once unthinkable exploration and production partnerships with Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned energy agency. It’s all part of Mexico’s attempt to modernize, inject cash and reform its energy sector.  But there’s reform that has to take place at Pemex itself before more U.S. companies invest.

 

The nerve center of Mexican energy is Torre Ejecutiva Pemex. It is unmistakable on Mexico City’s skyline, a monument to oil and gas when both produced massive, steady income. That is no no longer the case. When Mexico ushered in energy reform three years ago, inviting foreign players into the market for the first time since 1938, crude oil sold for a hundred dollars a barrel. Today it’s news when it cracks 50. These days Pemex is slashing its workforce, dumping pension obligations and selling off non energy-related assets.

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Welcome sign outside Presidio, Texas. (The Brit_2/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Trump’s Plans Could Cripple Small Businesses on the Border

Last week when President Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer dropped the possibility of a 20% tariff on Mexican imports to pay for Trump’s wall, pubic voices around the country cried out. Big corporations complained tariffs would ruin them. Experts said Trump is just passing the buck to the consumer. Outside of the press storm, a cafe and a grocery story that do business with each other across the US border, voiced their own fears. 
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Carl Buntion, 72, is the oldest inmate on Texas’ death row. (Jorge Sanhuez-Lyon/Texas Standard)

For Elderly Inmates, There’s More Than One Way to Die on Death Row

Death row inmates often spend decades between the day they’re sentenced and the day they’re executed. That can be due to many factors – from lengthy appeals to the state being unable to get the drugs it needs to carry out executions.

In the meantime, inmates age. Some are dying of natural causes. Such was the case last April when two inmates passed away – one right after the other.

Texas faces many challenges treating inmates’ health on a limited budget. To understand, we must look at inmates’ overall living conditions. Conditions differ between the more than 230 men and the six women on death row in Texas.

In a way, the lives of the women on death row are exceptional. They wake up in their cells, head out to a job, and then socialize or exercise until sundown when they’re locked up again.

But the men’s day-to-day is very different.
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State Representative Harold V. Dutton Jr. (D-Houston) (Andrew Schneider, Houston Public Media)

State Rep. Dutton Renews Uphill Fight To Abolish the Death Penalty

Texas is set to carry out its second execution of the year this week, barring a last minute reprieve. There are another seven planned by July. The use of the death penalaty has been on the decline in Texas in recent years. But one state representative from Houston has made it his mission to end it all together.

Harold Dutton’s law office sits two stories above the Main Street rail line in Midtown. One morning in 2002 he was drinking a cup of coffee and reading his daily paper, “and it talked about an execution that had taken place. And it said that it did it in the name of Texas,” he says. “And I thought, ‘Oh, that’s me.’ And so they did it in my name.”

The idea really bothered him. “And I said, ‘I really don’t want them doing it in my name.’”

He had already tried to stop new death sentences in Texas, after seeing states like Illinois take similar steps.
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Worried they may lose access to free and low-cost contraception through places like Planned Parenthood, some women are seeking out longer-term options like intrauterine devices -- also known as IUDs. (Sally Beauvais)

Uncertain Future for Contraceptives Has Some Women Seeking Long-Term Options

President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to dismantle the Affordable Care Act has women across the country seeking out long term birth control before they may lose access to free contraception. In rural West Texas, over 300 miles from the closest Planned Parenthood, some women are opting for a specific device.

Chloe Gallagher is a tour guide at an art foundation in Marfa. One November evening, she was scrolling through her Twitter feed when a hashtag caught her eye. Vice President Elect Mike Pence had just attended a performance of Hamilton, the hit Broadway musical. And Twitter users were re-imagining titles to other Broadway classics ad tagging their posts with #NameAPenceMusical. One of them was “Annie get your IUD.”

“And I laughed out loud,” she says, “I was just cracking up. And then I had this moment where the laughter sort of faded out, and I thought about it and I went, I really need to go do that.” 

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Part of the existing border wall sits close to a Brownsville neighborhood. (Michael Seifert)

Residents Concerned Wall Would Affect Cultural, Business and Familial Ties That Transcend the Border

This story was originally broadcast on a special episode of the Texas Standard called “The Wall”, an hour-long look at the prospect for an expanded border wall under the incoming Trump Administration.

It’s just before the holidays in McAllen, a town of 130,000 on the U.S.-Mexico border. Basilisa Valdez sits in the kitchen at her sister’s house, waiting for relatives to arrive. Here, that means some come from across town, and some from Reynosa, just across the river in Mexico. Before 2008, when a concrete and steel border fence went up along the Rio Grande, she says the two cities could seem like one. But after the wall, she says it’s tough for people who’ve spent most of their lives seeing the borderlands as a single entity.

President-elect Donald Trump and border-wall proponents forget that for decades before 9/11, passage between the U.S. and Mexico was easy, especially for the towns separated by just a sliver of the Rio Grande.

Families spread out and set down roots on either side, creating a web of cultural interconnectivity – a unique shared identity.

“When I see the wall, I feel like they’re trying to separate people,” she says. “I feel like we’re not united.”


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We’re Hiring! Morning Edition Host & Reporter Position Now Open

TITLE: Morning Edition Host & Reporter
REPORTS TO: General Manager

Marfa Public Radio believes in the capacity of public media to shape and animate who we are, where we live, and how we relate. Our aim is to use the power of storytelling to engage our listeners, celebrate our region, and generate dialogue. Our focus is both excellence and relevance. Marfa Public Radio (along with West Texas Public Radio) has been the most awarded small-market station in the nation during the regional Murrow Awards for excellence in journalism for two years. As public media shifts, we are asking ourselves as a sole service station that covers a vast range: what is the special capacity of our station?
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Elise Pepple

West Texas Public Radio Names Maine Producer Elise Pepple as General Manager

Elise Pepple, a producer of community outreach programming for public radio and podcasts will become the general manager of Marfa Public Radio (KRTS) and West Texas Public Radio (KXWT) this fall.

She has produced for the nationally recognized Story Corps radio series as well as for isolated radio stations in Alaska. Pepple has been a TEDx speaker. She is a resident of Portland, Maine.

“This is a dream position for me,” Pepple said. “It’s an opportunity to help sustain and shape remarkable public radio stations. KRTS and KXWT are a platform to celebrate the wide range of Far West Texas.”

She said she has a strong interest in programming that engages residents in remote rural communities and encourages them to tell their life stories.

Jim Byerlotzer of Midland, president of the Marfa Public Radio Corp. board, welcomed Pepple’s experience in remote parts of the country.

“Our stations in the Big Bend and Permian Basin serve truly distinctive communities set in a huge, magnificent but sometimes isolating landscape,” he said. “Their common radio stations can be a vital unifying force.”


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Fri. Sep 22 Interview: Ramona Rose

On this edition of West Texas Talk, a conversation and in-studio performance from musician, artist, and poet Ramona Rose.

Originally from upstate New York, Ramona came Texas via Joshua Tree, California, with intent to help with Hurricane Harvey relief – she ended up in Marfa after meeting some people in El Paso who told her it was a good place to start.

She stopped by Marfa Public Radio’s Studio A to perform a few songs and talk about life experiences.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Conserving a “Keystone Species”: Lynda Watson is “the Prairie Dog Lady” of West Texas

They form a sophisticated society, with intricate communication. Prairie dogs are remarkable for their intelligence and sociability. And they’re a “keystone species” – a foundation of biodiversity – on the West Texas plains. They nearly disappeared. Our region was once … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:35 am and 4:45 pm
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Wed. Sep 20 Interview: Harley Tallchief Continues Native American Traditions of Beaded Sculpture and Dance

Harley Tallchief splits his time between running an oil rig in Odessa, creating ornate beaded sculptures, and practicing traditional Native American dance. Originally from the Cattaraugus Reservation in New York, Tallchief found himself in Odessa after running out of money on his way to California for a job opportunity. Since then, he’s continued to work in the oil industry while continuing his native traditions. He says that beadwork is a reprieve from the demanding job of running an oil rig, “It calms me down… It’s like a therapy for me — peace and quiet…”

Tallchief’s first exhibit, “Beaded Sculptures,” will be on view through September 28th at the Nancy Fyfe Cardozier Gallery at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Presidio County Appraisal District Fills Board Vacancy Left by Carlos Nieto

A special meeting of the Presidio County Appraisal District’s Board of Directors was held yesterday afternoon. One of the items on the agenda was filling the vacant slot left by former chairman, Carlos Nieto. Nieto had held a seat on the board for nearly 30 years, before being indicted on federal corruption charges in June.

There was only one nominee on the ballot: Alfredo Muñiz. Muñiz listed off his credentials: “Volunteer for the Presidio Volunteer Fire Department for over 30 years. Been on the school district – good god – going on, I wanna say 15 (years), a little over. I work with the school district in just about every capacity, as far as helping out. Sat on the city council for about 4 terms.”

Muñiz was nominated by the Presidio Independent School District, the same taxing entity that had chosen Nieto. When the vote came, it was unanimous. Muñiz was sworn in and started serving his term right after.

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Tue. Sep 19 Interview: Gabriel Diaz Montemayor

On this episode of West Texas Talk, we hear from Gabriel Diaz Montemayor. He’s an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. Recently, Montemayor wrote an editorial calling for a revitalization of the border’s landscape. He argues this could lead to increased security and would provide benefits to both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

 

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West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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