The Brief: June 2, 2010

The Fort Hood shooter made his first courtroom appearance Tuesday, but a trial, the military court decided, won't happen until October.

Full Story 

The Pollution "Police"

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has nearly doubled its number of administrative enforcement actions against polluters in the last five years — yet critics charge the agency still levies penalties too small to act as a deterrent.

Full Story 
Minerals Management Service

"Accidents Happen Sometimes"

In the wake of the BP catastrophe, former Railroad Commissioner Barry Williamson is defending the federal Minerals Management Service, which he led during the Exxon Valdez spill. “Was there a failure of regulation? I don't know," he says. "There may not have been."

Full Story 
Eric Draper

TribBlog: W. is for Wind

Former President George W. Bush appeared in rousing, joke-cracking form in a rare speech this morning the American Wind Energy Association's conference in Dallas. He praised Texas wind energy, bashed the media, refused to bash his successor and said his grandchildren will be driving electric cars. He also gave away the first line of his forthcoming memoir, a quote from his wife that got him to quit drinking.

Full Story 

TribBlog: Room at the Top, and Then Some

Jan Newton — who chairs the board of directors at the state's electric utility grid operator — is stepping down from that post, leaving the agency with interim officeholders and holes in key positions at the top of its organization chart.

Full Story 

The Next Deepwater?

While Congress investigates the April 20 explosion that killed 11 people and spiked an underwater oil leak that continues to spill more than 210,000 gallons a day, another BP rig is at the center of its own firestorm.

Full Story 
Center for Public Integrity

On the Records: Mapping Refinery Violations, Fines

An analysis by the The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group in Washington, D.C., shows that BP is responsible for almost all of the nation's "willful" safety violations at refineries. Check out their interactive map.

Full Story 

A Hostile Climate

The Obama administration's push to pass carbon control legislation got a boost yesterday with the release of a new version of the bill in the U.S. Senate. Here in Texas, as Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune reports, the state's GOP leadership continues to fight back against what they view as an energy tax bill.

Full Story 

The Green Mile

Former U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham was in Austin yesterday as part of a travelling conference on how far we have to go to address the county’s renewable energy challenges. Abraham spoke with Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune about his message to public and private sector players.

Full Story 
Marc Morrison

State of Readiness

Could a BP-style oil spill happen closer to our shores, threatening our fisheries and beaches? Of course. But Texas reformed its process for dealing with such a catastrophe two decades ago, and state officials say we're better prepared than other states to respond to — or better still, prevent — a major spill.

Full Story 

HuTube: Patterson's Walk Down Memory Lane

Muskets, bayonets, Confederate war heroes. Just a sample of some of the cool stuff Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson keeps in his office. In our latest HuTube vlog episode, we get Patterson to give us a tour.

Full Story 

Spill, Baby, Spill

A trio of pieces from our partners at public radio station KUT in Austin examines the potential impact on Texas of the disastrous oil spill off the Louisiana coast. Ericka Aguilar reports on Attorney General Greg Abbott’s meetings with other Gulf Coast states on potential legal action against British Petroleum, Nathan Bernier asks whether the oil might make its way to Texas — possibly driven by a hurricane, and Jennifer Stayton looks at the effects on fisheries.

Full Story 
United States Coast Guard

TribBlog: AG Takes Action on Oil Spill

The Gulf oil spill that currently spans almost 50 miles wide and 80 miles long is “growing worse by the day“ with “no end in legitimate sight,” Attorney General Greg Abbott said at a press conference this morning.

Full Story 

A Conversation with T. Boone Pickens

The energy magnate traveled to Texas Tech University in Lubbock in mid-April as part of the Tribune's inaugural College Tour stop. He talked about wind and other renewables, how high the price of oil will go, how he'd grade Barack Obama's performance in office so far, and what it's like to lose $2 billion in a single year.

Full Story 

Is Claytie Williams All Wet?

Allies of the billionaire oilman are brandishing a study purporting to show that his proposed pumping of the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer will do no harm. Environmentalists and elected officials in the Rio Grande Valley still think he's a water profiteer with their worst interests at heart.

Full Story 
Jacqueline Mermea

TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

E. Smith interviews Gov. Rick Perry for the Trib and Newsweek, Philpott dissects the state's budget mess in a weeklong series, Hamilton looks at whether Bill White is or was a trial lawyer, M. Smith finds experts all over the state anxiously watching a court case over who owns the water under our feet, Aguilar reports on the battle between Fort Stockton and Clayton Williams Jr. over water in West Texas, Ramshaw finds a population too disabled to get on by itself but not disabled enough to get state help and Miller spends a day with a young man and his mother coping with that situation, Ramsey peeks in on software that lets the government know whether its e-mail messages are getting read and who's reading what, a highway commissioner reveals just how big a hole Texas has in its road budget, Grissom does the math on the state's border cameras and learns they cost Texans about $153,800 per arrest, and E. Smith interviews Karen Hughes on the difference between corporate and political P.R. — and whether there's such a thing as "Obama Derangement Syndrome." The best of our best from April 19 to April 23, 2010.

Full Story