Monday, May 31, 2010

BP Oil Spill – Desperate times and desperate measures

The Daily News, Galveston County – Seafood wholesalers feeling the effects:

Officials – Oil Spill May Last Months:

Deepwater Horizon response:

Updates from The New York Times at these links:

This article is by Clifford Krauss, John M. Broder and Jackie Calmes.

Published: May 30, 2010

HOUSTON — The Obama administration scrambled to respond on Sunday after the failure of the latest effort to kill the gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. But administration officials acknowledged the possibility that tens of thousands of gallons of oil might continue pouring out until August, when two relief wells are scheduled to be completed.

“We are prepared for the worst,” said Carol M. Browner, President Obama’s climate change and energy policy adviser. “We have been prepared from the beginning.”

Even as the White House sought to demonstrate that it was taking a more direct hand in trying to solve the problem, senior officials acknowledged that the new technique BP will use to try to cap the leak — severing the riser pipe and placing a containment dome over the cut riser — could temporarily result in as much as 20 percent more oil flowing into the water during the three days to a week before the new device could be in place.


Terra Imagery from NASA shows a sheen of oil offshore of Port Arthur, near Beaumont Texas.
There's a strong likelihood that black area is weathered oil below the water's surface coming ashore on barrier islands southwest of Galveston, Texas. –
Sat May 29, 2010 at 04:33:11 PM PDT

"We don't know how to stop this," an oil industry expert Matthew Simmons told the National Geographic today. He strongly doubted temporary efforts such as the "junk shot" to plug the well, calling it "a joke." Simmons said that the oil could flow until the reservoir is depleted.
Thu May 13, 2010 at 06:46:22 PM PDT

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and La. Gov. Bobby Jindal tour through the Roseau Grasses that mark the coastline of Southeast Louisiana at Pass a Loutre at the mouth of the Mississippi River where oil has washed ashore, Wednesday, May 19, 2010.

Overlaid satellite imagery of BP oil slick better shows its true size.

An eddy spinning off of the Loop current captured spilled oil at the end of last week then pulled it into the Loop current.
Mon May 17, 2010 at 09:43:11 AM PDT

Thursday, May 27, 2010

HTGCD Board member's use of District information raises conflict question

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Greg Nesbitt, a member of the board of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (District 2-Dripping Springs area), says he has installed septic systems on properties that have well registrations on file with the District.

Nesbitt, at far left, with the old District Board
"I have requested information on who's putting in wells. I want to see what's going on. I have done work for them, septic," Nesbitt said.

The RoundUp asked Mr. Nesbitt about his use of District information at last week's (May 19) District Board meeting in Dripping Springs, at which three new board members were installed. Nesbitt owns a swimming pool construction company and another business that does excavation work, septic and rainwater system installations, according to the groundwater district's web site.

Nesbitt is completing the first year of his first term on the HTGCD Board. His position will be up for election next May, 2011.

Nesbitt in the past reportedly had asked a District staff member to send all well registrations to him "so I can put their septic in." His request was viewed with alarm as it quickly raised concerns of a conflict of interest for the Board and the District. Nesbitt ultimately was asked to make his requests for District records through the normal public information request procedure.

"I guess I'd have to talk to Greg and see what he's doing," said new District Board president Jimmy Skipton (District 1-Henly/Dripping Springs) when asked for his assessment of Nesbitt's use of District information. "I know he's in the septic business," Skipton said. "I'm okay with anybody getting records, that's normal, but using those records for something else, is there a conflict there?"

Nesbitt's pool business, Glen Rose Pools LLC, has an "A-" rating in the Better Business Bureau's online web site, here. More information about Nesbitt's Black River Services company can be found at Nesbitt's LinkedIn business profile here. We're really curious about the "Hooters Athletic Club" that Nesbitt has listed under "Greg Nesbitt's Education, Activities and Societies," along with Texas A&M University, BS, Engineering Technology, 1980-82.

Update: Clock now is ticking on Texas air standards

White's campaign said Perry, who appoints the commissioners who oversee the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, has put employers at risk through the state's policies

By Peggy Fikac - Express-News
Web Posted: 05/27/2010 12:00 CDT

AUSTIN — Texas has “weeks, not years” to show it's willing to comply with the Clean Air Act or face the prospect of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency taking over its entire air-pollution-permitting program, the EPA's regional administrator said Wednesday.

“We have to get good air-quality permits issued in Texas, and either the state of Texas does it, or I'll have to,” Al Armendariz said, adding: “I'm hopeful that the state will correct the deficiencies and stay as the permitting authority in the state of Texas.”

His pronouncement upped the ante a day after EPA took over the issuance of an operating permit for one major facility and said it might do the same for some 39 others to which it has objected unless the state makes changes.

Armendariz said there are “significant problems” not only with those individual permits but with the program itself, and that the Clean Air Act would require the federal government to take over every air-quality permit if deficiencies aren't corrected.

Read the whole story at this link to the San Antonio Express-News:

TCEQ: Agency of Destruction, and no friend to the public

Commissioners and top management frequently leave the agency to work for the industries they previously regulated, a revolving door that critics say has led to TCEQ’s leaning in industry’s direction

Evidence in hand, DISH Mayor Calvin Tillman, a conservative who’s become the bane of North Texas gas interests, called on the industry to clean up its act or get out of town

Note: We can't say enough about the excellent and well documented investigative reporting of Forrest Wilder, a Wimberley native. If reading this story makes your blood boil, it should. Texas is our home, not a sanctuary for polluters as apparently TCEQ and its industry backers see things. We can't help but ask who will stand up and fix this toxic mess of an agency, and we understand the reality that our elected Legislature certainly will not. Our Legislators are like cattle, perennially bought and sold at auction by industry lobbyists – they know who wears the pants. It's the way bidness is conducted in Texas. Forget about Patrick Rose and Jeff Wentworth making a lick of difference. The fixin' will have to start with 'the people,' the most novel of America's founding and democratic concepts. Here's hoping we haven't forgotten.

Send your comments and news tips to, to Mr. Wilder at, go to this link for TCEQ contact info, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Please take the time to read the whole story at this link:

Three hours after a fire broke out at Citgo’s Corpus Christi
refinery on July 19, 2009, releasing dangerous chemicals, the
TCEQ’s regional head emailed a colleague: “Apparently there
is a fire at Citgo. I’m walking into the Harry Potter movie.”


Published on: Wednesday May 26, 2010

To judge by size along, Texas' environmental agency should be the mortal terror of polluters. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) boasts a $600 million budget, some 3,000 employees, a sprawling Austin headquarters, and 16 regional offices. In 2008, the agency conducted more than 100,000 investigations, issued more than 14,000 violation notices, and levied $16.9 million in penalties. By the numbers, Texas’ environmental agency is the second-largest in the world, after the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Though it’s not a household name, the commission has profound influence – over the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the health of Texas’ diverse ecosystems, not to mention the state’s economy. The agency regulates dry cleaners, hazardous waste dumps, the vast coastal petrochemical complexes and uranium mines. It oversees Texas’ enforcement of federal laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.

But both its critics and friends will agree on this: TCEQ is no EPA. While the federal agency is a favorite punching bag of right-wing Texas politicians like Gov. Rick Perry, you don’t hear warnings ringing out about the evils of the TCEQ. That’s because, in decision after decision, the Texas agency that’s supposed to protect the public and the environment has sided with polluters.

Perry, who appoints the three TCEQ commissioners, and the TCEQ bosses say they’ve strived to balance economic growth with protecting the environment. It doesn’t feel that way to the agency’s fierce and numerous critics.

“The problem with some of my colleagues’ balancing is they always balance it toward economic development and don’t let the environment have an equal consideration,” says Larry Soward, a former TCEQ commissioner who now works with environmental groups on strategies to improve the agency.

Texas has always been a state where environmental concerns are elbowed aside by moneyed interests: the cattle baron, the oilman, the multinational petrochemical company with billions in assets. Under governors George W. Bush and Rick Perry, the TCEQ has become increasingly cozy with industry. (Until 2002, the agency was the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, or TNRCC—”Trainwreck” to its critics.)

“It’s never been worse,” says Jim Schermbeck of the clean-air group Downwinders at Risk. “Perry makes Bush look like a Greenpeace smokestack-sitter.”

When Texas citizens meet their environmental agency, they’re often disappointed. The stories of environmental battles – told in these pages countless times – frequently follow a similar plot.

First, citizens band together to beat back (fill in the blank: a coal plant, industrial feedlot, uranium mine, or something else of your choosing). New to activism, they educate themselves on the rules, laws and politics. At some point, they probably contact an overwhelmed organization such as Public Citizen or the Sierra Club for help. They form a group with a snappy acronym, print literature, create a website, hold meetings and write their Congress member. After a time, they realize that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is holding the cards. A permit must be stopped or penalties assessed to deter misbehavior. Surely the commission, an impartial arbiter, will weigh the facts and side with the people.

More times than not, a bitter reality sets in: The TCEQ is not the people’s friend, but another obstacle. There’s a “well-founded perception that [the public] can’t get in the process or, even if they get in, it’s just a token effort, and it won’t make any difference,” Soward says.

In TCEQ’s internal lingo, “customers” are the companies the agency regulates. In serving its “customers,” TCEQ has allowed itself to be overrun by powerful interests, shown disregard for both science and the law, and cast aside public opinion.

[ Updated below The TCEQ-EPA showdown has escalated. In an unprecedented move, EPA announced yesterday that it is blocking the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality from issuing a permit to a refinery in Corpus Christi and is threatening to do the same for dozens of other refineries and chemical plants. It’s clear now – if it wasn’t before – that the feds mean business. “I think the writing will be on the wall — unless we start seeing better permits that address our objections, we are very likely to begin federalizing others,” EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz told the Houston Chronicle. “The… Read more... ]

Forrest Wilder, a native of Wimberley, Texas, joined the Observer as a staff writer in April 2005. Forrest specializes in environmental reporting and runs the “Forrest for the Trees” blog. Forrest graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in December 2003 with a degree in Anthropology.

PEC invites members to Cooperative’s community giving forum

May 26, 2010

TO: All PEC-area newspapers
MEDIA CONTACT: Anne Harvey, (830) 868-4933; Austin line, (512) 219-2602

Pedernales Electric is hosting a member forum June 8 at 6 p.m. at PEC’s E. Babe Smith Headquarters Building in Johnson City. The forum will give members a chance to hear proposals and weigh in on proposed changes to the Cooperative’s community giving policies and programs, including the creation of a member advisory group to recommend how PEC’s Board of Directors distributes funds to area nonprofit organizations.

Members also are invited to share their ideas and comments by e-mailing

Comments will be accepted through July 1 and presented to Board members for their consideration.

“We truly value our members and our communities,” said PEC General Manager Juan Garza. “The feedback from this forum will help guide a community giving plan that will benefit members and local organizations.”

More information about the June 8 member forum is available online at HYPERLINK, or by calling PEC toll-free at 1-888-554-4732.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bush suggests diversification away from oil at wind energy conference

Texas has reached its goal of having 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity this year, 15 years earlier than scheduled, thanks to an ample supply of West Texas wind. According to a report (.doc) filed with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) Friday, the Lone Star State has 10,367 megawatts of renewable energy capacity, and generated 21,594,278 megawatt-hours of clean electricity in 2009. Ninety-nine percent of those megawatts come from wind power. West Texas has some of the country's best wind resources, and has experienced explosive wind power development since ERCOT's renewable energy program was signed into law by then-Governor George W. Bush in 1999.

Posted Tuesday, May 25, 2010

By Jack Z. Smith

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

DALLAS — As the U.S. Gulf Coast battled a massive oil spill, former President George W. Bush told the American Wind Energy Association conference here today, "It's in our economic interests that we diversify away from oil."
"It's in our environmental interest," the onetime Midland oilman added. "And, finally, it's in our national security interest."

Bush, speaking at the Dallas Convention Center, said he believes that his grandchildren "will be driving electric cars, powered primarily by renewable sources of energy."

“I fully believe plug-in hybrids will be a transition to electric cars,” he said. Hybrids are combination gasoline-electric vehicles. Plug-in hybrids can be recharged using standard electric outlets.

Oil and natural gas will remain vital sources of energy as the nation transitions to a new energy era, Bush said.

Read the complete story at

Armey asks, 'What are the odds of the states seceding from the Union, again?'

For you Tea Party followers: Booster-in-chief Dick Armey speaks at the Tri-State Liberty Summit in Stamford, Connecticut, May 23.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

HTGCD Board meets this Friday at Woodcreek City Hall

– Here are the agenda items for discussion and possible action just received from the District office: 1) Review of Board Meeting Protocol 2) Board & Staff Announcements 3) Public Comments 4) Review action on Hays County Grant Funding for FY2011 5) Review letter from Greg Ellis 6) Review Aqua Texas agreement proposal 7) Review employment opportunities for a part-time staff member/Review and Discuss Current Staff’s Salary and Benefits 8) Schedule Board Workshop for June 24th 9) Future Agenda Items 10) Consider sponsorship of Hays County Rainwater Revival October 9, 2010 - Dripping Springs

Note: The public is urged to attend this important meeting, to ask questions and to get to know the new members of the HTGCD Board. We'll have more comments on the upcoming meeting later.

Send your comments to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Jimmy Skipton
The board of directors of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District will meet this Friday, May 28, 10 a.m. at Woodcreek City Hall. New board president Jimmy Skipton informed the RoundUp the main order of business will be the grant funding proposal the district intends to present to county commissioners.

"Right now we need to get the funding thing straight," Skipton said.

Hiring of new staff and possibly addressing an unfinished agenda item from last week's meeting to lift a two-year moratorium on new commercial groundwater pumping permits might also be on the agenda, Skipton said.

The District's co-manager Dana Carmean and administrative assistant Cathy Balch last week announced their resignations, effective Thursday of this week – a big loss to the district.

As for funding, to supplement its small annual budget, the district has relied on grants from a LCRA surface water utility franchise fee fund managed by the county. The county granted the district $100,000 for current year operations and $75,000 the prior year. District officials say they probably will ask for an increase in the grant in the range of $150,000 to $200,000.

"The LCRA money is there" for an increase, Skipton said.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Groundwater district election proves tricky for some

During the May 8th election many voters were unaware that they could vote in the election because their voter registration card did not show the Hays Trinity designation

Note: Jim McMeans of the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development
( ) is passing the note below around so that more folks are aware of their voting eligibility in the five single-member districts that comprise the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District.

Very sadly, a grand total of 1,985 people voted in the May 8 groundwater district election in which three new board members were elected in Districts 1, 3 and 5. County Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan estimates there are 13,441 eligible voters within the those three districts, and about 25,000 total eligible voters with Districts 2 and 4 added.

Cowan says her office is working with the HTGCD staff and board (512.858.9253) to minimize confusion in future elections. "We're catching the heat but that's ok," Cowan said. According to Cowan, it is the responsibility of the groundwater district to forward correct voter address information to the elections office. "What I'm finding are things like a road that's a boundary line without the block numbers . . .
(like) FM 165 in the Henly area and Loop 165. People don't put loop on their resident address. FM 165 is in District 1 and Loop 165 is in 4."

Send your comments and news tips to, to Mr. McMeans at, to Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan at, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Click on image to enlarge

Hello Friends,

If you live in western Hays County, you are probably within the boundaries of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District. The HTGCD is divided into five districts with a Board member (five total) elected by the registered voters within each district. During the May 8th election three new Board members were elected - Districts 1, 3 and 5. Board members serve for two years unless re-elected. A detailed map of the five HTGCD districts is attached with this email. PLEASE OPEN THE MAP AND VERIFY THAT YOU LIVE IN ONE OF THE FIVE DISTRICTS. Use the zoom button to enlarge the map.

During the May 8th election many voters were unaware that they could vote in the election because their voter registration card did not show the Hays Trinity designation. PLEASE PULL OUT YOUR VOTER REGISTRATION CARD AND SEE IF IT CONTAINS THE DESIGNATION "WATER - HT1, HT2, HT3, HT4, OR HT5.

If you live within the boundaries of the HTGCD and your voter registration card does not show the "WATER - HT#" designation, PLEASE SEND AN EMAIL TO JOYCE@CO.HAYS.TX.US AND LET HER KNOW ABOUT THE MISSING HAYS TRINITY DISTRICT DESIGNATION. This email will go directly to Joyce Cowan, Hays County Elections Administrator, who is responsible for the accuracy of the voter registration card issued to each of you.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

SBOE approves new curriculum standards

Most experts say it is unlikely that the board will revisit the social studies curriculum - unless Democrat Bill White wins the governor’s race this fall. If that happened, White would appoint the education board chairman, who controls the panel’s agenda and could put the issue back before the board next year

Read the whole story with short takes on many of the adopted changes, at this link:

More from Austin-based Burnt Orange Report
, including a video of the controversial opening prayer by SBOE member Cynthia Dunbar:

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

One Nation Under God by John McNaughton/Sensuous Curmudgeon

11:55 PM CDT on Friday, May 21, 2010

By Terrence Stutz
Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN — In a landmark vote that will shape the future education of millions of Texas schoolchildren, the State Board of Education on Friday approved new curriculum standards for U.S. history and other social studies courses that reflect a more conservative tone than in the past.

Split along party lines, the board voted 9-5 to adopt the new standards, which will dictate what is taught in all Texas schools and provide the basis for future textbooks and student achievement tests over the next decade.

Texas standards often wind up being taught in other states because national publishers typically tailor their materials to Texas, one of the biggest textbook purchasers in the country.

Approval came after the GOP-dominated board approved a new curriculum standard that would encourage high school students to question the legal doctrine of church-state separation - a sore point for social conservative groups who disagree with court decisions that have affirmed the doctrine, including the ban on school-sponsored prayer.

Before the final vote on the lengthy list of standards, the board’s five Democrats criticized the Republican majority - primarily social conservatives - for injecting their political and religious views into the standards and giving short shrift to important minority figures in history.

Republicans called the standards a major step forward that will boost instruction in history, government and other social studies classes.

Regarding the complaint that Republicans and conservative ideology have been given more prominence, board member Don McLeroy, R-College Station, said the panel was trying to make up for the liberal-slanted curriculum now being used in schools.

Board Democrats accused the Republicans of a “cut-and-paste” job on the standards that included a flurry of late amendments undoing much of the work of teachers and academics who were appointed to review teams to draft the curriculum requirements last year.

“Here we are trying to approve standards for our children that will be used for years and we are being asked to approve all these last-minute cut-and-paste proposals,” said Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi.

“I don’t think any teacher would accept work like this,” she said. “They would have thrown this paper in the trash. We’ve done an injustice to the children of this state.


From the Texas Freedom Network,

Even before the Texas State Board of Education took up its expected debate today over what students will learn about separation of church and state in their social studies classrooms, board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, made her position clear. She offered the board’s opening prayer this morning and removed any doubt about what she and other far-right board members want students to learn: America’s laws and government should be based on the Christian Bible.
Laying out in blunt language the “Christian nation” vision of American history that the board’s powerful bloc of social conservatives espouses, Dunbar threw down the gauntlet:
“I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses.”
“Whether we look to the first charter of Virginia, or the charter of New England…the same objective is present — a Christian land governed by Christian principles.”
“I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so, no great harm can come to our country.”
You will recall that Dunbar, in her 2008 book, One Nation Under God, argued that the Founders created “an emphatically Christian government” (page 18 of her book) and that government should be guided by a “biblical litmus test” (page 47).

Friday, May 21, 2010

Audit: Pedernales co-op needs better spending controls

Historically, district offices did their own purchasing without clearing it through Pedernales headquarters, a practice the auditors said led to waste and inconsistencies

Update, from PEC member Carlos Higgins, : After reading the Smith, Patterson & Johnson audit report, two things catch my attention, apart from a grade of about a "D" or "C" at most that our Board and management team probably deserve for their inaction. 1) Members of this auditing firm apparently take their role seriously. In letting the chips fall in their review and comments, they appear to be independent and straightforward. They deserve a public "Thank you" on behalf of PEC Member/owners. 2) The report is addressed to only one Board member, the chair of the audit committee, plus copies to top managers. If I were a board member, I'd want a copy of something so significant as this to be mailed directly to me, at the same time it is mailed to anyone else.

More cracks in PEC's management are being revealed in the media. We can credit recent revelations to the persistence of a few well informed individual members who are associated with a discussion group known as the "watchdogs." We have highlighted the work of Milton Hawkins, Bill Christensen and Merle Moden (Wimberley) in the RoundUp. There are several others. If you're interested in joining the discussion, go to this link: or send an email with your comments to

Members are raising many important questions about PEC's spending habits – for example, the desirability and purpose of our co-op's well padded cash community & charitable contributions program and PEC's very generous executive compensation packages.

We are especially concerned about current members of the board who are actively campaigning for two preselected board candidates. Whether the agenda is honest or hidden makes no difference. We know what the results can be from a stacked PEC Board of Directors. Pure and simple, members of the board should be prohibited, as a matter of policy, from campaigning for or endorsing anyone's candidacy for the board except their own.

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Read the whole story here:

Patrick George

Published: 10:24 p.m. Thursday, May 20, 2010

SAN MARCOS — An internal audit of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative's purchasing practices concludes that the Hill Country utility still needs to make major changes in the way it monitors how its money is spent.

The audit, done by Bridgepoint Consulting , examined the co-op's policies and procedures for purchasing equipment and vehicles, getting competitive bids for projects and paying its vendors. After looking at all purchases and payments between January and October 2009 , auditors found the co-op's controls over the spending process are not effective and fail to keep costs down.

But the co-op's Board of Directors said those deficiencies are holdovers from Pedernales' previous management and culture under former General Manager Bennie Fuelberg, who left in early 2008 , and that they commissioned the audit to fix these problems.

The criticism is a reminder of the spending issues that helped trigger a member lawsuit and a reform movement at Pedernales nearly three years ago.

"We're still dealing with the vestiges of the old Fuelberg era, where there were no standards of performance or operational checkpoints," board President Larry Landaker said .

The co-op purchases an array of items necessary to bring power to its 200,000 -plus members. "We are a buyer of many things, everything from paper and pens to transformers and poles," Landaker said.

The audit lists several areas dealing with spending that need "major" improvement . . .; 512-392-8750

Hayes Carll, Bruce Robison and Jimmie Dale Gilmore to perform benefit concert

KAPS’ mission is to foster individual interests, nurture a love for learning, to enhance community responsibility and advance peace and human rights

Y'all make sure to come out and see the show.

WIMBERLEY - Hayes Carll, Bruce Robison and Jimmie Dale Gilmore will perform Thursday, May 27, at 8 pm at the Katherine Anne Porter School to benefit KAPS radio, a new web-based community radio station serving the Wimberley Valley. Jody Denberg will host the event.

KAPS Radio is a grassroots internet radio station planned to include high quality multicultural programming including live broadcasting, podcasts, emergency announcements, local musicians, news, sports, tourism and Market Days information to serve community need in the Wimberley area. In addition, the venture will provide educational opportunities and training for local students.

The Katherine Anne Porter School is a free, accredited public charter high school serving students from Hays, Travis, Blanco and Comal counties. KAPS’ mission is to foster individual interests, nurture a love for learning, to enhance community responsibility and advance peace and human rights.

Tickets for the event are $20 and may be purchased online at, at the Katherine Anne Porter School, and at Hill Country Natural Foods, King Feed and Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffee and Smoothies in Wimberley. The Katherine Anne Porter School is at 515 FM 2325, Wimberley. For more information, call 512-847-6867 or visit the web site at

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New HTGCD Board – the world hasn't ended but close monitoring is advised

There was a strong sense from some of the statements made and not so subtle posturing that this board will require some very close monitoring by the public and all well owners

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Click on the link for information about the Texas Water Development Board's groundwater management programs and the status of the MAG and DFC reports cited below:

New board members, from left: Joan Jernigan (District 5/Wimberley),
Mark Key (District 3/eastern Dripping and south to just outside
of Wimberley),and Jimmy Skipton (District 1/Henly & Dripping).

Update, Thursday May 20 –
We are awaiting confirmation of the next scheduled board meeting.

By Bob Ochoa

RoundUp Editor

We'll have a more in-depth story later this week on this morning's meeting and changing of the guard of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District Board of Directors.

After a long and bitterly fought election May 8, three new board members were sworn in at Dripping Springs City Hall at the district's regularly scheduled meeting, which had been postponed from last week.

Jimmy Skipton was elected president by the new board. David Baker (District 4/Woodcreek and surrounding region) was elected to remain as board vice president. Mark Key of District 3 (who defeated long time incumbent Andrew Backus by two votes) will serve as board secretary/treasurer.

After all the formalities were dispensed with, the new board dug right in to a rather meaty agenda. The question of whether to lift a moratorium on new commercial groundwater permits was briefly debated and tabled for the board's next meeting.

The moratorium and its close relationship with two very important reports also was discussed – the MAG (managed available groundwater due soon from the Texas Water Development Board) and DFC (desired future conditions due soon from the local district and the Region 9 priority groundwater management area).

The reports are key because they essentially will set the amount of groundwater available for use in the Hill Country and western Hays County, and they will set the bar for how much groundwater can be allocated and permitted for current and future users.

Who will win, current residents on wells who wish to conserve the groundwater remaining in the aquifer, or commercial interests and new development that will draw more water and further threaten the supply for all?

New board member Mark Key, right, will perhaps become
the most vocal "property rights – take all you want" conservative
ideologue on the board. He appears willing to at least listen to old
aquifer hands like Jack Hollon, who retired from the board today
after ten years of voluntary service.

Anyone not up to speed on the requirements, consequences, opportunities and details of the MAG and DFC should try to catch up sooner than later. How they are applied in policy by this new HTGCD Board will determine if our aquifer is treated as a resource to be mined and used up or as a resource to be conserved and preserved for future generations and will keep our streams and rivers flowing.

Reports that the world would end early if certain candidates were elected to the groundwater district board may have been slightly exaggerated. Nevertheless, there was a strong sense coming from some of the statements made and not so subtle posturing that this board will require some very close monitoring by the public and all well owners.

PEC announces rate reduction, revised bond rating

The Board authorized a public forum on PEC’s community giving policy. The forum will give members a chance to weigh in on proposed changes, including creation of a member advisory group that will recommend how the Board distributes funds to area non-profit organizations

Note: Remember that voting is underway for two director positions on PEC's board of directors. See this link for voting details, the candidates bios and an update on the number of members voting – 2,045 ballots have been cast online so far:

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

May 18, 2010

TO: All PEC-area newspapers
MEDIA CONTACT: Anne Harvey, (830) 868-4933; Austin line, (512) 219-2602

Read the whole story at this link:

Pedernales Electric Cooperative members will get a rate cut this summer. Monday PEC’s Board of Directors heard from management that lower natural gas prices will save PEC members $5 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity used. The Lower Colorado River Authority, PEC’s primary wholesale power provider, charged less for power due to the lower fuel prices, allowing the Cooperative to adjust its rate. The 0.5 cent per kWh adjustment will be reflected on members’ bills rendered on or after June 1.

This is the second rate reduction in less than six months. In December, the Board approved a rate adjustment that saved PEC members $2 per 1,000 kWh used. This power cost adjustment is the result of a new rate structure PEC adopted in 2009, which enables the Cooperative to separate the actual cost of power from costs associated with delivering electricity.

There was more good financial news for PEC members Monday. The Board approved a resolution deferring a $25 million advance on a line of credit issued by the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation. PEC Chief Financial Officer Mike Vollmer said the need to borrow is starting to decline due to a recently adopted capital improvement plan and the implementation of prudent financial controls. The Board was able to defer the May draw until November, avoiding more than $400,000 in interest costs.

“It’s all part of a positive trend as far as new borrowed funds go,” Vollmer said.

The Board also took a step toward distributing more than $14 million in patronage capital to PEC members earlier than expected. Under the terms of a settlement agreement reached in 2008, PEC was to distribute $23 million in payments to current members only between 2008 and 2012. During the past two years the Board has distributed about $8.7 million, leaving a balance of about $14.3 million.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ramus punishment delayed, pending ruling on motion for a new trial

Commissioner Jeff Barton promoted Ramus in the Barton family’s newspaper, Hays Free Press, and suggested that Ramus sue the county in 2007

Send your comments and news tips to, to Mr. O'Dell at, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Charles O'Dell
Contributing Editor

Carolyn Logan had waited nearly two years for justice and now she believed that Nick Ramus was about to be sentenced for his conviction on a charge of deadly conduct stemming from an incident when he aimed a loaded shotgun at her. But Kelly Higgins, defense attorney for Ramus, pulled another delaying tactic in court Friday May 14, filing a motion for a new trial. Surprisingly, the prosecutor didn’t object to the spurious motion and Judge Linda Rodriquez didn’t deny it on the spot.

Nick Ramus/ 2008
Nick Ramus was convicted of deadly conduct in a bench trial held in Hays County Court of Law before Judge Rodriquez on April 27, 2010, for an offense committed September 5, 2008. In Friday’s hearing, Ramus was sentenced to one year in jail (converted to two years probation), forty hours of community service, a fine of $700 plus $250 in court cost, and Ramus is required to attend anger management class. Judge Rodriquez ordered his sentence held in abeyance until she rules on whether to grant a new trial or deny the motion.

Higgins filed his motion in the Clerk's office just thirteen minutes before the scheduled sentencing was to occur at 1:30 pm. Higgins claims in his motion that the State failed to provide the Defense with non-existing evidence and the expected testimony of two witnesses prior to trial. Never mind that cross-examination of the witness during trial is the job of the defense attorney. The prosecutor has only to identify possible state witnesses, not transcripts of expected testimony. Why Judge Rodriquez failed to deny the one paragraph bogus motion had courtroom spectators scratching their heads.

This is not the first time Higgins has played the delay game using misinformation. Months ago on the Friday afternoon just before Ramus was to have his jury trial, Higgins entered an oral motion asking that Judge Anna Boling and the prosecutors recuse themselves from the Ramus case. Judge Boling gave Higgins fourteen days to file his motion in writing. When Higgins finally filed his written motion it made no mention of recusal. Instead, Higgins asked that Ramus’ jury trial be changed to a bench trial before a judge because, “Ramus had become emaciated and a jury wouldn’t like him.” That was a false claim. There is no evidence of an emaciated Ramus but there are plenty of photographs showing an overweight Ramus, and that’s the Ramus who showed up in court for his April, 2010 trial. Is it acceptable for an attorney to provide the court with information known to be false?

An overweight Ramus entered the courtroom again Friday for his sentencing, limping and using a cane – just as he had at his April trial. This time he brought along a tall coffee mug and sat down with his attorney at the defendant’s table. Judge Rodriquez admonished Ramus, saying that she doesn’t permit drinks in her court. Ramus got up from the table and walked spritely over to the spectator seats without using his cane and gave the mug to his house mate who sat back down. Judge Rodriquez, now more than a bit put out, raised her voice and instructed Ramus’ friend to take the mug out of her court!

Judge Rodriguez

When the hearing ended, Ramus left the courtroom without the aid of his cane. The show was over and justice had been delayed once again with the aid of a willing attorney.

Ramus is the same fellow who Commissioner Will Conley approved as the Republican candidate for Pct 1 county commissioner in 2008. Conley was reported to have called Ramus, “a great man and a great candidate.” Commissioner Jeff Barton promoted Ramus in the Barton family’s newspaper, Hays Free Press, and suggested that Ramus sue the county in 2007. Ramus did sue the county and that case is still awaiting an order to be prepared by Ramus’ attorney, Skip Newsom, for District Judge Robert Pfeuffer to sign.

Ramus is a pathological liar but he has friends in high places in Hays County government. This is why Ramus gets away with gaming our courts.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What's wrong with the Patrick Rose fundraiser?

The grassroots are pretty steamed, and this is gaining traction as the days go on and more people find out about the Rose fundraiser

The following is from the conservative "blue dot blues" blog of Travis County. See the whole report here:

It's hilarious that Mr. Samuelson describes State Rep. Patrick Rose as "a proven Liberal Democrat." Samuelson should spend a little time talking to constituents inside Rose's district, including here in Hays County, where Rose is known for his robust support of private business and developer interests, his (well hidden) opposition to more county control over development, and his steadfast opposition to nearly all things the Hays Trinity Groundwater District has done to try to conserve our groundwater and find a stable funding source. (That may change now that the district has 3 developer-friendly board members). There is one thing Rose is good at, and that's playing both sides against the middle.

The fundraiser was held yesterday at 5 p.m. at the Mandola Estate Winery.

Here's more from Dallas Morning News Reporter Robert T. Garrett:

This comment arrived yesterday around 5:30 p.m. from an alert Driftwood area citizen: Hmm. Why is there a group of pickets [right now] protesting to "Fire Patrick Rose!" in front of a certain Italian Restaurant on FM 150 in Hays County? Could it be that our fair-haired boy pissed-off someone else? Or, could it be that more people are finally coming to their senses?

by MJ Samuelson
Published: May 12, 2010

Despite recent claims to the contrary, HD 45 erstwhile Democratic representative is no friend to Texas taxpayers or Texas business. The Right Side of Austin did some great digging on Rep. Rose, which you can find here (and yes, it's true - Speaker Straus, a Republican from San Antonio, is lending his name and presence to a fundraiser for Rose tonight (Wednesday May 12) in Driftwood. Say it with me people: SIGH).


Why is Republican Speaker Straus appearing at a fundraiser for proven liberal Democrat Patrick Rose? The complicated answer has to do with speaker politics. Straus is in the position he holds today because of Democratic support - if you doubt that, take another look at the committee appointments, especially the chairmanships, from the 81st session. Some of the arguments in defense of this fundraiser have been "he's also doing this for Republicans" (true - he's doing one for Lubbock Republican John Frullo in Austin), "Craddick supported Rose" (true again - Rose was a well-known "Craddick D" until the ship began to sink), and that he's "speaker of the whole House."

Rose has consistently rated low from Young Conservatives of Texas during his tenure in the House. His composite score is a 36 - this last session, he dropped to 29 from 46 in the previous session . . . .

BP Says Leak May Be Closer to a Solution

Underwater view of the gusher. BP, via Getty Images/NYTimes

A report
from The New York Times on the latest efforts to contain the mammoth oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico . . .


Published: May 12, 2010

After days of deepening gloom, BP and two Obama administration officials suggested on Wednesday that the company was closer to a solution that might halt the seemingly uncontrollable oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Read the story at this link:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The truth remains elusive in the Barton and Bishop affair

Barton’s published account of the March 30, 2010 attack continued to evolve with each new report creating additional contradictions, but Barton’s is the only version to be found in print

Note: The story of the dramatic altercation that took place March 30 between Pct. 2 County Commissioner Jeff Barton and his assistant Kara Ashley Bishop has taken on many lives. The truth behind the incident remains elusive. We do not wish to beat a dead horse, and we don't believe this horse is dead by a long shot. The case remained active for three weeks with the Sheriff's criminal investigation unit. The initial call report was "Assault/Public Servant." The incident type, "Assault" UCR code "ASSAULT - Strong-Arm."
Newstreamz/Sept. 2009
Bishop, standing; Barton seated at right
The RoundUp obtained a copy of the Offense Report filed by the Deputy on the scene, Mike Chance. Deputy Chance's report appears to be as thorough and professional as it could be, considering that Barton waved the deputy off and refused to talk to him directly. From the report: "Deputy Chance determined that the offense of Assault upon a Public Servant had been committed" . . . "Deputy Chance could see that Commissioner Barton's bottom lip was swollen and bleeding. Commissioner Barton had blood stains on his hands and arms."

The deputy said in his report he observed blood stains on the tan leather driver's seat of a green 2002 Toyota Highlander SUV and on the asphalt next to the vehicle.
"While waiting outside, Deputy Chance spoke with Deputy Constable Todd Watkins who advised me that he was driving by, heading home, when he observed Commissioner Barton on his knees next to the green Toyota, in the parking lot . . . While waiting Deputy Chance observed one of the Kyle Police Officers enter Commissioner Barton's vehicle and begin wiping the blood off of the seat prior to it being photographed . . ."

Send your comments and news tips to, to Mr. O'Dell at, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story


“Sure there are dishonest men in local government.
But there are dishonest men in national government too”

~ Richard M. Nixon

By Charles O'Dell, Ph.D.
Contributing Editor

Hays County Pct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton has controlled the news story with his singular and uncontested, but conflicting versions of what happened when his young female assistant of two years bloodied him in an attack in front of his Hays County office in Kyle, Texas the afternoon of March 30, 2010.

Even the Kyle Police Department, located only a block away from Barton’s office, officially reports Barton’s underlying version of the incident. And area news media also reported the Barton version, including its many discrepancies. There is one important exception to the Barton version – the Hays County Sheriff Department report that has been finally released to the public.

If an elected official had planned to announce to his young female assistant and campaign manager that he was dumping her (we can only speculate why), would that official have called the young woman’s parents beforehand to solicit their help – especially if the stepfather was Senior Pastor of an Austin Baptist Church, and the mother was a supervisor and Director of the Clinical Pastoral Education Program of Seton Hospital System in Kyle? He might have, especially if he anticipated his assistant would be angry about his intended action to dump her. But what if the situation between the official and his assistant turned unexpectedly violent – embarrassingly in public and creating the need for damage control?

Suddenly, the official needed a public story line about the attack that was unchallenged, less onerous to the parent’s public persona, provided political cover for the elected official who was running for higher office, and that the young woman could be convinced would be less embarrassing for her.

If instead, that elected official’s young female assistant, “has been off her medication and needed mental health treatment” (A statement Kyle police officer Zacharie Castilleja attributes to Commissioner Jeff Barton on 3/30/10); or is, “suffering from the on-set of a yet to be diagnosed or determined mental illness” (A statement Hays County Deputy Mike Chance attributes to Bishop’s stepfather, Rev. Larry Bethune on 3/30/10); or she, “was dealing with some health issues” (Hays County Pct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton on 4/1/10); or she, “suffers a rare, serious, physical condition” (Barton: No hard feelings about cell phone incident, Sean Batura, Newstreamz, 4/6/10); or had, “some ongoing health and stress-related issues” (Kara Bishop in her statement issued 4/7/10) – would Commissioner Barton and his assistant Kara Bishop, “laugh about an incident last week in which she threw a cell phone into his face” (Newstreamz, Batura 4/6/10)?

Barton’s published account of the March 30, 2010 attack continued to evolve with each new report creating additional contradictions, but Barton’s is the only version to be found in print. Even Bishop’s statement finally issued on April 7, 2010, eight days after she bloodied Barton in front of his office, seems to support the Barton version with one important exception – Bishop speaks only of, “ongoing health and stress-related issues.” No mention of a rare physical condition, a yet to be diagnosed or determined mental illness, or of being off her medication.

It was relatively easy for Barton to control the news because he controlled the message and the media.

Bishop’s June thru December 2009 employee time sheets while employed as Barton’s assistant, and obtained from Hays County through an open records request, are inconsistent, with some appearing to have been altered. They show Bishop had no work hours submitted in November or December. Instead of being on medical leave, and that Bishop, “has been off her medication and needed mental health treatment,” as Barton claimed, (Updated: Barton campaign manager on leave after assault, by Brad Rollins,, 4/1/10), Bishop’s time sheets show that effective January 1, 2010, she had been placed on leave without pay from her county job as Barton’s assistant. Barton was slowly cutting ties with Bishop.

Barton’s January 2010 Campaign Finance report to the County Elections Office showed an error for payment to Bishop which we brought to Barton’s attention. The correction showed Bishop was paid $2,000 on 1/24/10 for campaign consulting. Barton hasn’t reported campaign expenditures beyond 1/31/10.

The Barton version of Bishop’s cell phone attack first appeared online in Barton’s family owned Free and in the San Marcos, both reports written by Brad Rollins two days after the Barton/Bishop altercation. Rollins is not only managing editor of the but is also a reporter for the Barton owned Hays Free Press newspaper and Free Rollin’s original post on the Mercury and Free Press contained a photo of Barton. That photo was quickly removed in an updated version of the Barton story.

There are other serious discrepancies and contradictions in Barton news reports. Batura reported in his 4/6/10 article that Barton said, “…after the cell phone incident, Bishop obtained a first aid kit and helped him tend to his injury.” A little later Barton is quoted as saying, “I stepped outside the car and there happened to be a constable who just drove up, and he saw me bleeding…and (Barton asked) if they could just give me a first aid kit to stop the bleeding.” Barton goes on to say, “She (Bishop) was very upset in general and kind of threw her cell phone. And unfortunately, I was in her line of fire. We’ve laughed about that together.” How contrived and insulting for Barton to characterize this sorry episode as being an accident and a laughing matter.

Rollins quotes Kyle police officer Castilleja who spoke with Barton and refers to Barton throughout his police report on a first name basis. “Jeff said that, ‘a Hays County constable unit was in the area and assisted him.’” “Jeff stated he went to the restroom to get cleaned up.”

When Hays County Sheriff Deputy Mike Chance arrived and asked Barton if he cared to discuss the incident, Barton politely declined. Barton knew that he needed time to get his story straight because he would be dealing with a professional Sheriff Department, not friendly Kyle police officers who removed evidence and supported Barton’s story.

While waiting outside, Deputy Chance observed one of the Kyle police officers enter Barton’s vehicle and begin wiping the blood off of the seat prior to it being photographed. Ultimately no photographs were taken and no evidence was collected according to the Sheriff Department Offense Report.

Where were Bishop’s parents when she was suffering this “yet to be diagnosed or determined mental illness? Why is Barton controlling the public story? Why would Barton drive Kara Bishop to his office to discuss getting her some medical treatment at a Mental Health Institution in San Antonio? Kara’s mother is Director of Clinical Pastoral Education program at Seton Hospital in Kyle (just across I-35 from Barton’s office) and Seton has a mental health services facility in nearby Austin.

Why would Barton drive to San Antonio with Bishop and her parents to seek mental health services instead of going to nearby Austin Seton, a hospital system for which Gina Bethune works? Barton isn’t a family member and according to San Antonio State Hospital (SASH) policy he wouldn’t be allowed in the process.

An attack on a public official is a big deal as demonstrated by the arrival of a constable, five sheriff deputies, Kyle police officers, fire department personnel, and three ambulances. The question is what motivated Bishop to throw her cell phone at Barton? Given Barton’s stumbling efforts to play down the matter, and his conflicting accounts of the incident and its cause, I suspect this young woman was offered up so that others might sidestep accountability for their sorry behavior. We have only Barton’s account of what happened and why it happened.

Perhaps in the end truth will prevail, but don’t hold your breath waiting for it to come from Commissioner Barton and his crowd.

Voting open for PEC director election, member bill of rights

Thirteen PEC members have been nominated by petition to vie for the District 4 and District 5 positions on the Board

See the candidates bios, a candidates forum video and the proposed Member Bill of Rights at this link:

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

May 10, 2010

TO: All PEC-area newspapers

CONTACT: Anne Harvey, (830) 868-4933; Austin line, (512) 219-2602

Voting opened May 5 for Pedernales Electric Cooperative’s Board of Directors election, in which PEC members will elect two new directors and vote on a proposed member bill of rights and other issues. Ballots have been mailed to all members by Ronkonkoma, New York-based Election Services Corporation, which is managing the election.

Members may return completed ballots by mail or vote online through a secure website operated by ESC. Mailed-in ballots have to be postmarked and online voting must be completed by June 11. Members also can vote in person at the PEC Annual Membership Meeting June 19 in Johnson City, where election results will be announced. Ballots will not be accepted at PEC offices.

If ratified by members, the member bill of rights will establish core rights — such as election safeguards and access to PEC meetings and records — which can only be changed with a member vote. The bill of rights would become part of the Cooperative’s Articles of Incorporation, which is a legal document filed with the state that defines the organization, purpose, and highest-level business rules of the Cooperative. Members also will be asked to vote on three other amendments to the Articles, which cannot be changed without member approval.

Thirteen PEC members have been nominated by petition to vie for the District 4 and District 5 positions on the Board, currently occupied by O.C. Harmon and R.B. Felps, respectively. Harmon and Felps are not seeking additional terms.

Election information, a link to ESC’s voting site, and video clips of candidates presenting their platforms at PEC’s April 27 public forum are available at