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Archive for February 21st, 2011

The protests in Wisconsin. The passage of the CR in the House in the dead of night over the weekend. And the continued debate over how to balance the Texas $26 billion budget gap. We kept getting told there are no sacred cows- that all have to share in the burden and pain of budget squeezing.

But realpolitik has shown exactly where the real sacred cows are, while corporate tea party crusaders use the budget crises as a reason to bust unions, raid pensions funds, and slash health services and education budgets, they are leaving intact the tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

Let’s talk Texas first:  a new study out this morning by the Texas Tribune showed that Texans want a balanced approach to fixing the budget.  The single most popular answer was a 50/50 split of revenue enhancements and spending cuts.  However, when you asked people what they wanted to cut spending on, the answer was a resounding NO! to educationTexans say no to budget cuts cuts, NO! to health services cuts, NO! to environmental reg cuts. And when asked where to increase revenue, it was equally sticky.  The single most popular options, the only ones which get over 50% support, was to legalize casino gambling and increase alcohol taxes.  But taxing vice can only get us so far.

One of the things not touched by the poll were the enormous tax breaks we give to the natural gas industry, one which the LBB has suggested eliminating, namely a $7.4 billion tax cut to oil and gas companies using “high cost” wells- which generally means one thing: hydro-fracturing. Fracking is used on areas like the Barnett Shale and has been linked to spoiled water, a cancer cluster located in Flower Mound/Dish, and natural gas turning tap water flammable, and a garden hose into a flamethrower.

At the very least, all of the drilling is producing more air pollution than all of the cars and trucks in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. So to add insult to industry, not only is the drilling on the Barnett Shale ruining families’ homes and making people sick, but we are paying the companies billions of dollars in pork to do it, robbing school children and those who need a hand from social services.

And to kick us even more when we’re down, Chesapeake Energy has the audacity to say if their corporate welfare goes away, they’re going to have to curtail drilling on the Barnett Shale.  From the Star-Telegram’s story:

An executive with Chesapeake Energy told members of the Tarrant County legislative delegation Wednesday that the company would consider curtailing activity in Texas if the exemption is discontinued.

“We’d have to look at it on an individual well basis, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that we would reduce our activity in the state of Texas,” Adam Haynes, senior government affairs director for Chesapeake, said after his appearance before lawmakers. “It certainly affects the Barnett Shale, absolutely.” (more…)

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The next time you bite into that double quarter-pounder with cheese, you may want to think twice about it.  Literally though, once for your health and once for Mother Nature dearest.

The livestock and agricultural industry is the single largest producer of methane, one of the biggest contributors to global warming.  In fact, 100 million tons of methane is produced each year by the animal agricultural business alone.

About 85% of the people I’ve talked to, had no idea that eating meat had such a big impact on the environment.  It’s understandable that the general public cannot cease use of all fossil fuels, electricity, and gas-guzzling SUVs, but altering your diet toward a more plant-based focus is both one of the easiest things to do to decrease your carbon footprint, as well as quickest.  You may not be in a position to trade in your car for the latest electric vehicle, but you can be aware of the choices you make at the grocery store. (more…)

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Local Farms Day Flier

This Monday the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) will be hosting an education day at the Texas Capitol about farming and local foods.

Understanding how our food is grown and distributed is crucial to our health and mental well-being.  FARFA urges the public to investigate the implications of big Agribusiness’ practices upon our health as well as that of plants and animals.

I personally altered my own diet in the past year after considering how GMOed foods, pesticides, agricultural runoff, food additives, and meat and dairy industry practices affect both my body and our Earth.  I feel a lot better already!

Although not instantly apparent, Public Citizen and FARFA promote some similar ideas.   Contributing to local economies reduces carbon emissions by reducing the physical distance a product must travel to get to a consumer.  Large Agribusinesses pollute local water supplies with higher concentrations of chemical and animal waste runoff.  Interestingly, cattle emit nearly as much carbon as cars do.

This day is important to all of us because when it comes down to it,  food, shelter and water are the only basic human necessities and local farmers have invaluable knowledge about how to supply quality food and water to our communities.

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Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay)

Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay)

Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) said he expects to act on legislation (Senate Bill 527) that would allow the state to tap into funds from the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan to pay for air monitoring activities near natural gas drilling operations.  North Texas Senate Republicans Chris Harris, Craig Estes, Jane Nelson and Florence Shapiro along with Democrat Royce West have signed on as co-authors.

Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth)

Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth)

Late last year, Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) filed a bill (Senate Bill 102) that would require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to tap TERP funds to “conduct short-term and long-term air quality monitoring” to gauge the levels of such pollutants as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds near various natural gas operations in the Barnett.

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Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) filed Senate Bill 772, which, if passed, would require companies using hydraulic fracturing to mine natural gas in Texas to include a unique tracer compound enabling regulators to determine which party is or is not responsible in the event that the fluids find their way into drinking water supplies.

Sen. Davis compared the tracing compound to “DNA” for gas drilling companies. She said the measure would protect both landowners and the operators in the state’s growing shale plays and resolve questions regarding groundwater contamination allegations.

If an effective tracer compound had been used by Range Resources, it might have gone a long way toward settling a dispute between the Fort Worth company and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over two contaminated wells in Parker County containing methane, benzene and other compounds found in natural gas fracking operations.

To see a copy of Davis’ bill, click here.

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