About Air and Water

Monday, July 30, 2007

Trinity road in Trinity Park going to voters

Barring legal challenges, voters will decide in November whether to keep highway in Trinity corridor project plans

By BRUCE TOMASO - The Dallas Morning News - Monday, July 30, 2007

Opponents of a toll road inside the Trinity River levees collected enough signatures to force a November vote on the project, the Dallas city secretary said Sunday night.

Supporters of the toll road say it's needed to alleviate downtown traffic congestion. They say it's been approved already not just by those 1998 bond voters, but also by the City Council in 2003. And they say that scrapping the road would further delay other aspects of the Trinity project.

Ms. Hunt's group had 60 days to collect about 48,000 valid signatures from registered voters who live in Dallas. TrinityVote turned in more than 80,000 signatures on June 29. By law, City Secretary Deborah Watkins had until Sunday to certify whether a sufficient number of those were valid.

Mr. Holcomb said his group "will take a little bit of time to look the petitions over," but suggested that a legal challenge to Ms. Watkins' certification was unlikely. "Our focus will be on November," he said.

If approved by voters, the referendum would ban construction inside the levees of any road that's more than two lanes in each direction and has a speed limit of more than 35 mph.

The practical effect would be to kill the currently conceived Trinity toll road, which is envisioned as a high-speed, multi-lane highway. The road would run about nine miles, from U.S. Highway 175 south of downtown to the confluence of Interstate 35E and State Highway 183 to the north.

Seeking a new alignment for such a highway outside the levees would be prohibitively expensive, and acquiring the land to build it would take years, according to Mr. Holcomb and several downtown business groups.

A roadway inside the levees has been a part of the Trinity River project from Day One. But the size, configuration, cost and purpose of that road have long been matters of deep dispute.

In the Trinity plan first approved by the City Council shortly after the 1998 bond vote, the highway would have been divided with four southbound lanes on the Oak Cliff side of the river and four northbound lanes on the downtown side.

In 2003, at the urging of then-Mayor Laura Miller, the City Council revised the plan, coming up with a new version that council members said was much more environmentally friendly: All lanes were moved to the downtown side, providing unrestricted access to the downtown park from the Oak Cliff side. The road was reduced from eight lanes overall to six north of Continental Avenue and four south of there (with room to expand to six later.)

But the kinder, gentler version would still provide limited access to the riverside park; its chief function would be to whisk cars past downtown, alleviating congestion on Stemmons Freeway and other existing roads.

Ms. Hunt was elected to the City Council in 2005 from District 14, which includes parts of downtown, Uptown, East Dallas and Oak Lawn. She was appointed by Ms. Miller to the council's Trinity River committee and eventually came to question the cost of the road, which has escalated considerably, to almost $1 billion.

She said she reached her breaking point on the subject of the toll road early this year, when city staff informed the Trinity River committee that the road would have to be moved closer to the river — farther in from the levees — because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in the post-Katrina era, was concerned about protecting the integrity of those levees.

This would mean less park. It would also mean that those enjoying the park by the river's edge would be closer to the traffic noise from the tollway.

"This, to me, has just become a bloated project, a dangerous project," she said at the time. "Costs keep going up. Green space shrinks."

She announced plans to launch the petition drive shortly thereafter.

In talking with constituents, she said, she learned that many of them didn't know that when they voted for the bonds, they were voting for a toll road in their downtown park. The 1998 ballot measure, in describing the road, mentioned only "the Trinity Parkway and related street improvements."

However, news stories around the time of the 1998 bond vote clearly described the proposed road as a toll road. An advertisement taken out by environmental groups and others in The Dallas Morning News in April 1998 urged people to vote against the bonds, in part because the project included a "proposed eight-lane tollway inside the levee."

Read more

Citizens Speak Out Against Devastation of Green Belt in Letters to the Editor - Fort Worth Star Telegram -

STAR-TELEGRAM - Mon, Jul. 30, 2007

Drilling, nature tend not to mix

Let me make sure I have this straight: The Bedford City Council members, those same rogues who think that grandfathered storage sites are unsightly, want to explore putting natural gas rigs on the city's very limited park sites. (See Tuesday news story "150 attend meeting on plans for drilling.")

I noticed that during the public hearing on this issue, not a soul from the council seemed worried about how to get rid of the saltwater accumulations from these rigs, nor did any of them seem concerned that about 70 percent of these rigs go bust. None asked how the city would deal with them.

The amount of land needed for these wonderfully lighted sites seemed to grow from three acres to probably closer to five acres during the meeting, and this caused no consternation among our elected officials.

Who's kidding whom around here? We need to wake up and take stock of our community again.

Drilling in Bedford? Sure, let's put the first rig right there at City Hall, preferably over the seat of Councilman Charles Orean.

-- Hank Henning, Bedford

Chesapeake Energy recently purchased 55 acres on Scenery Hill, adjacent to the studios of KXAS/Channel 5 on Broadcast Hill and the Tandy Hills Nature Area.

Anyone familiar with the area recognizes that drilling on Scenery Hill acreage would be a travesty and a major historical and environmental disaster.

The Tandy Hills Nature Area is one of the few (and arguably the best) remaining examples of virgin prairie in this area. As long as it remains, people can enjoy its beauty and solitude and understand how things used to be. They can perhaps spy a fox watching them warily or see a wild turkey take flight. Whatever they see, it provides a connection to the beginning of this nation.

This heritage must not be allowed to vanish.

The most appropriate use for the Chesapeake site would be as an addition to the Tandy Hills Nature Area.

There are two practical alternatives. One is for Chesapeake Energy to donate the land for an expansion of the nature area, gaining a tax write-off and positive publicity in the process. The other is to destroy the land by using it for drill sites and ancillary operations, reaping a huge amount of negative publicity, probable demonstrations and possibly even lawsuits.

Whatever happens, it will hurt Chesapeake's bottom line. Donate the land for the benefit of future generations and enjoy a positive public relations bonanza. It's a win-win proposition.

-- Richard Marmo,Fort Worth

We need the money and the energy, so drilling should happen. But it should not happen near our schools, homes or parks. By "near," I mean within a mile or so.

Drillers should follow all Environmental Protection Agency regulations and not be exempt from any of them.

Also, how much water do they use? Where does it go?

There have been too many accidents and too many waivers from existing law to make me feel comfortable.

Here on the east side of Fort Worth, streets are in disrepair and could not handle more truck traffic. Trucks aren't allowed on our streets, but I understand that the drilling companies most likely would get an exemption from this.

Our big trees are our crowning glory, keeping our streets shaded in the summer. We've seen what drilling does to the areas around it.

Safety, water usage, air pollution, street destruction -- these are some of the reasons to keep gas drillers out of my neighborhood.

-- Kyle Anne Poland, Fort Worth
Read Letters to The Editor in the Star Telegram

Gas driller pressured to preserve green areas by Ft. Worth Park

By MIKE LEE- Star-Telegram staff writer - Mon, Jul. 30, 2007
FORT WORTH -- Hundreds of people have written letters and signed petitions, asking a natural gas company not to drill next to two popular parks.

Chesapeake Energy is working with local officials to minimize the effects of drilling at one site and has not decided whether to drill at the other, a spokeswoman said.

Chesapeake acquired both sites last year -- 8 acres along the Trinity River trail west of University Drive and 50 acres just east of Tandy Hills Nature Center, between Beach Street and Oakland Boulevard near Interstate 30.

The Trinity River site includes a grove of shade trees next to a parking lot that joggers, hikers and bicyclists use to explore the river trails. Jim Marshall, a bicyclist and bird enthusiast, said he has seen wild turkeys and eastern bluebirds there; both are rare in urban areas.

Marshall has collected letters and signatures from 442 people opposed to drilling at the site.

"Most of us thought that was a park," Marshall said. "In my mind and in the mind of a lot of people, that's a horrible thing to have happen to what I think is one of the most beautiful groves of trees along the Trinity trails."

Chesapeake would have to clear-cut more than 2 acres of trees at the site and erect a chain-link fence to drill in the area, Chesapeake Vice President Julie Wilson said. The company plans to drill six to eight wells in two phases, each of which would take 60 to 80 days. Production would continue for 20 to 30 years, and crews would need to rework the well periodically throughout that time.

Wilson said the pad site will be at the back of the tract.

"It's not the trees that are out alongside by the trails," she said. "We're going to make every effort to make sure that that view where the joggers and bikers go by is affected as little as possible."

The site was already privately owned, and the previous owner could have cut the trees to build on it, Wilson said.

"This, frankly, was a great way to preserve a lot of that area that would not have been preserved if an apartment complex or an office building had gone in," she said.

The site would be used to drill for gas beneath the Colonial Country Club, which is just south of the river, and the Union Pacific rail yard, which runs next to the trail.

Marshall has suggested that Chesapeake drill on Union Pacific's land, but Wilson said the company doesn't own a drill site there.

At Tandy Hill Park, residents are working with Chesapeake to move any potential drill sites away from the neighborhood and are trying to encourage the company to donate any unused land to the park. Tandy Hills includes about 180 acres of tallgrass prairie that is nearly pristine, even though it borders Interstate 30 a couple of miles from downtown.

It's also near Gateway Park, which is reportedly the site of some of the most productive gas wells in the region.

The land Chesapeake bought has gone undeveloped because it is in the shadow of the broadcast towers near the KXAS/Channel 5 studios. Chesapeake acquired its tract from Sagamore Hill Baptist Church, which acquired it from the Carter family, the previous owner of the Star-Telegram and Channel 5.

"It's a piece of ground I've been trying to protect for 15 years," said Wanda Conlin, who lives in the West Meadowbrook neighborhood. "Almost all of us bought our houses because it was there. We love the land."

Don Young, an environmentalist who has organized a festival to help protect Tandy Hills Park, has gotten letters and signatures from 70 people in support of preserving the land.

Wilson said the company has not done geological testing to determine where -- or even whether -- the company will drill a well at the site. Chesapeake has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop local parks and will try to show the same commitment on the Tandy Hills site, she said.

"We'll be very sensitive to the environment and the needs of the neighborhood," she said.

Fort Worth Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, who met with Chesapeake officials and neighborhood residents last week, said she was encouraged by the talks.

"Obviously, our goal is to minimize the impact on the park," she said.
Read more

Friday, July 27, 2007

TXU, Shell plan Panhandle wind farm

By JIM FUQUAY - Fort Worth Star Telegram - Jul. 27, 2007
TXU Corp.’s generating subsidiary and Shell WindEnergy Inc. plan a huge Panhandle wind farm that could include the use of compressed air to generate electricity when there’s not the right amount of wind to spin the big turbines.

The 3,000-megawatt facility is slated for Briscoe County, southeast of Amarillo. That’s about the same size as the wind farm recently announced by Texas investor Boone Pickens, whose Mesa Power is seeking to install between 2,000 and 4,000 megawatts of wind power in four Panhandle counties.

The companies did not say when they expect to begin the project. They said they also plan to work together on other renewable energy projects in the state.

Greg Wortham, director of the West Texas Wind Energy Coalition in Sweetwater, said Briscoe County is “the platinum region” of wind resources. He said wind companies have been very active leasing land there “at higher bonuses than paid anywhere else.”

Wortham also said that to his knowledge, the Luminant-Shell project would be the first in the United States to use compressed air to generate electricity, although it has previously been used with other generating technologies. The idea is to use electricity generated in periods of low demand to pump air into underground storage, then use that pressurized air to drive turbines to generate electricity in times of high demand.

“The holy grail is to find a way to store wind energy,” he said, so that it can supply electricity on demand, just like power plants that rely on natural gas, coal or nuclear. On average, wind farms operate at peak capacity only about 30 percent of the time, and that drops to less than 10 percent during the hottest summer days in Texas, when wind drops but electricity demand surges.

Wind farms that supply a more constant stream of electricity also would help make the construction of high-voltage transmission lines more cost-effective, since the wires must be designed to carry a peak load whether it’s delivered or not. The Public Utility Commission last week recommended eight zones as the best routes for new transmission lines to serve Texas wind farms.
Read more in the Star Telegram

Study says 9 Texas power plants among worst polluters,

A liberal dose - Copyright © 2007 - July 27, 2007
Texas is home to many of the nation's worst-polluting power plants for emissions of toxic mercury and greenhouse gases linked to global warming, according to a new study by a national nonprofit advocacy group.

Four East and East Central Texas power plants operated by TXU Corp. are highlighted in the study titled 'Dirty Kilowatts,' released Thursday by the Environmental Integrity Project, which ranked the nation's 50 biggest polluting power plants based mostly on 2006 federal data.

TXU's Martin Lake plant in Rusk County, about 170 miles east of Fort Worth, is the nation's top mercury polluting power plant, and the fifth-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, the chief manmade greenhouse gas, according to the 63-page study.

But Dallas-based TXU announced last month that it will add pollution controls at the 2,250-megawatt Martin Lake plant, and three others, to reduce emissions of mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin linked to birth defects and developmental disorders.

'We're retrofitting these plants with state-of-the-art emission controls,' said Tom Kleckner, a company spokesman. 'We've worked with federal regulators to address emissions in the past and will continue to do so.'

Energy industry representatives note that carbon dioxide emissions from power plants decreased slightly from 2005 to 2006.

Still, more than 100 new power plants are planned nationwide in the next 25 years. These plants will dramatically increase carbon dioxide emissions over the next two decades unless the federal government regulates carbon for the first time, said Ilan Levin, an Austin attorney and the report's lead author.

'The best way to stop making the problem worse is to put a cap on carbon emissions,' said Bruce Nilles, Sierra Club's national coal campaign director.

The issue

Nine Texas power plants rank among the biggest emitters of toxic mercury and/or carbon dioxide, according to a study by the Environmental Integrity Project.

The study's authors want federal regulators to crack down on mercury from power plants and to regulate carbon dioxide for the first time. They warn that emissions of carbon will increase substantially over the next 25 years without carbon regulations.

Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, an industry trade group, said emissions from the proposed power plants 'are technologically advanced and well-controlled.'

What it means

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin, and five power plants in East and East Central Texas are among the 10 biggest mercury polluters in the country, according to the study.

In addition, Texas already leads the nation in emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary manmade component of global warming. Two plants in East Texas rank among the 11 biggest carbon polluters.

Texas plants

The nine Texas power plants that rank among the leaders for emissions of mercury and/or carbon dioxide are:

Martin Lake, in Rusk County, operated by TXU Corp., ranked No. 1 for mercury emissions and No. 5 for carbon dioxide.

Monticello, in Titus County, operated by TXU, ranked No. 4 for mercury and No. 11 for carbon dioxide emissions.

Big Brown, in Freestone County, operated by TXU, ranked No. 6 for mercury emissions.

H.W. Pirkey, in Harrison County, operated by American Electric Power, ranked No. 8 for mercury.

Limestone, in Limestone County, operated by Texas Genco, ranked No. 10 for mercury, and No. 34 for carbon dioxide.

W.A. Parish, in Fort Bend County, operated by NRG Energy, ranked No. 16 for mercury and No. 6 for carbon dioxide.

Sandow, in Milam County, operated by TXU, ranked No. 41 for mercury.

O.W. Sommers, in Bexar County, operated by the city of San Antonio, ranked No. 43 for mercury.

Sam Seymour, in Fayette County, operated by the Lower Colorado River Authority, ranked No. 49 for carbon dioxide.

TCEQ adopts TMDLs and announces Partnership Grants

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Opinion - Al Armendariz: We can't wish our smog away - Clean-air plan won't keep N. Texas from violating ozone standard. We deserve better.

Al Armendariz- Dallas Morning News - Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dallas-Fort Worth's ozone smog is going to disappear. No more yellow, orange or red alert days. No more concern about children playing soccer at the park during summer and fall afternoons. No more guilt about not carpooling or not riding DART. In 2 ½ years, the lung-damaging, asthma-inducing ozone smog will be as much a part of Dallas' past as the Wright amendment and Cowboys games at the Cotton Bowl.

Why is the ozone problem going away? The state of Texas said so.

On June 15, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality submitted the latest in a long line of Dallas-Fort Worth clean-air plans to the Environmental Protection Agency. The plan was required by the federal Clean Air Act because North Texas does not meet the ozone air-quality standard.

The plan contains emission reductions that are supposed to ensure that our air quality will meet the ozone standard by the end of 2009. For this to happen, our ozone levels have to drop from the current level of 96 parts per billion to 84 ppb. A drop of 12 ppb is substantial – levels of ozone have never dropped this far in a short period of time in any metropolitan area in the history of the Clean Air Act.

The state's latest clean-air plan for the region targets emissions of nitrogen oxides, one of the two air pollutants that transform into ozone with the help of abundant summer sunlight. Over the next 2 ½ years, the plan will lower emissions from cars, trucks, factories and utilities in North Texas by approximately 5 percent.

The EPA is now evaluating the plan and will approve or reject it, based on whether it believes that the state has demonstrated conclusively that D-FW air will meet the ozone standard.

In contrast to the state's conclusions, I think the evidence is clear that the plan will not succeed and that our area will continue to violate the ozone standard well into the future. There are a number of reasons the plan will fail, including:

•EPA analyses indicate that emissions reductions of approximately 20 percent are required to lower ozone concentrations by 3 ppb. Remember, we need a 12 ppb drop to meet the standard.

•Ozone levels in North Texas would have to begin dropping immediately more than 10 times as fast as the state's own long-term data show is actually occurring to reach the standard by the end of 2009.

•The state's short-term data show that ozone levels are actually increasing in Tarrant, Denton and Parker counties.

•The state has submitted numerous failed ozone plans for our area, including in 1976, 1979, 1984, 1987, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2001 and 2003. Each has not only been a state failure but also a failure by the federal government, since the EPA approved each plan.

It is time for the failure to stop. We pay high taxes and deserve better service from our government administrators and scientists. The EPA should not approve the plan submitted by the state and instead require a new one with emission reductions that ensure that our area will meet the ozone standard.

Everyone who breathes should contact Steve Page, EPA director of the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, at page.steve@epa.gov, and Richard Greene, EPA regional administrator, at greene.richard1@epa.gov, and tell them that it is time for the state to submit a real clean-air plan for our area.

Al Armendariz is an assistant professor in Southern Methodist University's School of Engineering. His e-mail address is aja@engr.smu.edu.
Read more in the Dallas Morning News

Explosions rock downtown Dallas - Major Freeways shut off for hours

Flames 'as high as Reunion Tower'
WFAA & Associated Press - From Staff and Wire Reports - Wednesday, July 25, 2007
See video on WFAANews8

DALLAS — At least three people were injured when a series of large explosions at a gas facility showered nearby highways and buildings with flaming debris near downtown Wednesday.

A half-mile area surrounding the blasts was evacuated. Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Lt. Joel Lavender said the explosion appears to have been an accident.

He said two employees at Southwest Industrial Gases in the 500 block of Industrial Blvd. were filling canisters with acetylene using a series of connecting tubes in what is known as “pig-tailing.”

A connection malfunctioned at around 9:30 a.m., which apparently created enough pressure for one of the canisters to ignite.

The employees immediately began using a hose to spray down the other tanks—not to extinguish the fire, but to cool the tanks, Lt. Lavender said. But the canisters exploded in a chain reaction, burning the two men on their upper bodies.

Randal Bibb, 50, and Daniel McMurry, 56, were taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital. McMurry, the plant's co-owner and manager, was reported in fair condition late Wednesday afternoon. Bibb was said to be in serious condition.

The third injured person was a truck driver, who hurt his back as he jumped out of his cab. Lt. Lavender said all three men managed to talk to authorities about what happened.

The fire was considered under control but not extinguished as of Wednesday afternoon. Highways and streets in the immediate vicinity were expected to be closed until around 7 p.m.—after what's sure to be a chaotic rush hour.

Officials said there was no indication that the explosions had any link to terrorism. "It's so premature at this point; we don't know," said Dallas police Deputy Chief Vincent Golbeck. "We do have federal agents at the scene to help us with that evaluation."

A one-half mile area surrounding the blast site remained off-limits at noon, and emergency officials were wary about moving in too close to the source of the explosion.

"Until we think it's safe, we will not send our firefighters into the building," said Dallas Fire-Rescue Chief Eddie Burns. "We're in a defensive operation.

Around seven workers were believed to be on duty at the time of the blast.

Waco Mayor Virginia Dupuy, who is part-owner of Southwest Industrial Gases, said she had been told by another partner in the facility that all employees were able to evacuate safely. "Something like this just shakes you to your roots," Dupuy said in a telephone interview, her voice trembling.

WFAA-TV reporter Chris Heinbaugh was hit on the head by a projectile. "Pebble-sized ash is falling all around," he said. Debris can be seen more than 200 yards from the site of the blast.

"I was going south on I-35. The first thing I saw was a huge fire ball," said witness Kathy Williams. "I saw flames as high as the train overpass. It seemed as if the flames were as high as Reunion Tower."

Janiquta Bell was headed home after taking her husband at work. "All of a sudden the building started blowing up," she said.

"I had to just leave the car and run; grab the baby and run," said Bell, who is six months pregnant. "I made it out okay."

Now it's a waiting game. "My car is still on the freeway," Bell said. "They don't know when I'm going to be able to get my car off the freeway."

Video footage showed charred, smoldering metal wreckage at the site. There were numerous small fires burning in the area caused by flaming debris, including about a dozen cars in a nearby parking lot and some grassy areas of a highway median.

"I thought it was artillery. It was just coming just boom, boom, boom," said witness Tony Love, a former Army soldier.

Dallas police Sgt. Gil Cerda said officers were controlling traffic around the area.

Traffic was closed at one of the state's busiest highway intersections, Interstates 30 and 35, and was being rerouted through city streets, a Texas Department of Transportation spokesman said.

DART rail service was shut down in the area, and the transit agency also rerouted buses that normally travel near the blast site.

Vanessa O'Brien said she was standing in a parking lot a few blocks away when she felt at least 20 vibrations from the explosion.

"We felt the whole building move and the windows rattle," she said.

Despite hazy skies, a black column of smoke was visible from at least 10 miles.

The Environmental Protection Agency's emergency responders were on the way to the scene, said Dave Bary, a spokesman for the agency's regional office. He said they will assist in monitoring the air, but had no information yet.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals closed one of its offices a few blocks away. Staffers and animals were moved to another side of the building and animals recovering from surgery were taken to another facility, the group said in statement.

Dallas County's main jail and criminal courts building were at the edge of the evacuation zone but continued to operate, said Deputy Michael Ortiz of the Dallas County Sheriff's Department.

Ortiz said that sheriff's officers were first on the scene to evacuate the area. Otherwise, he said the only effect the explosions at the county justice complex was the rush to the windows to view the spectacle.

"We are prepared to go into any emergency mode that's needed, but we feel pretty secure here in the jail," Ortiz said.

Because of network congestion, Sprint asked customers to avoid using their wireless phones unless there is an emergency. Sprint suggested using text messaging to relay routine messages, since that technique is a much more efficient use of the cellular spectrum.

The explosions caused a mini-stir among bailiffs at the Holy Foundation terror financing trial. Although the explosions were not audible inside the windowless 15th floor courtroom at the Earle Cabell federal building, U.S . marshals swapped information on the blasts via walkie talkies at a break in the proceedings just after 10 a.m.

Their basic message to each other was that the explosions were not connectged to the trial, which has building security personnel already on edge because of the nature of the subect matter.

Cars parked across the street were dusted with ash and small pieces of debris.

Seventy-five firefighters with 20 pieces of equipment were attempting to bring the situation under control.

A Love Field spokesperson said the explosions had no impact on flights to the Dallas airport.

Tuesday morning’s fire is the second major industrial blaze in as many months immediately south of Interstate 30 along Dallas’ Trinity River corridor. Dallas City Council member Steve Salazar said he wants the council to review safety in that area at an upcoming meeting.

"Certainly, this is something we should look at," Salazar said. "Given the fact that there haven’t been any fatalities, it seems like our fire department and emergency responders did a great job. But we need to let the fire department look at why this is occurring there in that area.”

WFAA-TV, DallasNews.com and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

4:22 p.m. Due to this morning's explosion, the Dallas Emergency Operations Center estimates some downtown freeways and roads will remain closed until approximately 7 p.m. this evening while clean-up and investigation continues. The City of Dallas is working with the Texas Department of Transportation to determine when the area around the roadways is safe to open up for vehicular traffic.

Major Highway Closures:

I-35 Southbound at Woodall Rogers

I-35 Northbound at 8th Street

I-30 Eastbound at Loop 12/Walton Walker in Irving

Westbound I-30 at RL Thornton (forced to go South)

Westbound I-30 at Hampton

Road Closures:

Southbound Stemmons before Woodall Rogers

Westbound Woodall Rogers at Southbound I-35

Reunion Blvd at I-35

Eastbound I-30 at Sylvan

Continental at Stemmons

Industrial at Continental

TCEQ fines 71 entities for environmental violations

TCEQ APPROVES FINES TOTALING $823,480 - Includes fine of $121,880 against Oxy USA
TCEQ - Wed., July 25, 2007
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) today approved penalties totaling $823,480 against 71 regulated entities for violations of state environmental regulations.

Agreed orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: 17 air quality, eight dry cleaner, one Edwards Aquifer, three field citations, one industrial waste discharge one licensed irrigator, four multi-media, three municipal solid waste, four municipal waste discharge, 17 petroleum storage tank, three public water system, one sludge, and four water quality.

In addition, there were default orders issued for the following categories: one multi-media, and two petroleum storage tank. Penalties were also assessed against a regulated entity following hearings at the State Office of Administrative Hearings for one solid waste violation.

Included in the total fine figure is a penalty of $121,880 against Oxy USA of Kent County. The fines are as a result of five violations found during investigations in September and December, 2006, including failure to prevent unauthorized emissions and failure to meet reporting requirements.

The TCEQ's next agenda meeting is scheduled for August 8. Agenda items from all commission meetings and work session agendas can be viewed on the TCEQ Web site. See live webcast of the meeting and archived meeting

Monday, July 23, 2007

Arlington to consider expanding distance for gas well drilling

By SALLY CLAUNCH - Star-Telegram Staff Writer - Mon, Jul. 23, 2007
ARLINGTON -- Residents who live near proposed gas well sites may get a little more breathing room between their homes and the behemoths.

The City Council is scheduled Tuesday to discuss proposed changes to the city's natural gas drilling ordinance that could require increasing to 600 feet from 300 feet the setback between houses and gas wells.

Other proposed changes:

Requiring a "closed loop" system that would reduce the pad area and use bins to collect drilling waste instead of open pits.

Requiring drilling companies to pay a fee up front when they pay for their permits and applications. The fee would cover damage to roads.

Requiring drillers to use devices to mitigate noise, such as sound-muffling curtains.

Mayor Pro Tem Ron Wright said he likes the changes for the closed-loop system and sound mitigation. But he said he wants to discuss the setback. He said that the 300-foot setback is safe and that as long as companies use sound-muffling devices, the noise should be tolerable.

"We want these to be safe, but we don't want to cut off the opportunity for residents of Arlington to enjoy gas lease money," he said.

In other business

The council will also:

Cowboys stadium: Vote on buying property at 611 N. Collins St., which was a strip shopping center, for the stadium.

Parks: Approve spending about $33,000 in upfront money for a fence at River Legacy Parks. According to city rules, any money generated from wells under parks must be spent in the parks.

Storm water: Vote on whether to raise storm-water rates for residences and commercial property. The council could table the vote in the face of opposition from churches and the school district. The Arlington Chamber of Commerce also has asked the city for more discussion.


The council will meet at 2 p.m. for a work session and at 6:30 p.m. for the regular meeting Tuesday at City Hall, 101 W. Abram St.

Telecast: Channel 16 on Arlington Time Warner Cable

Read more

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Learn the status of Air and Water Permits and Participate in the Permitting Process

By Faith Chatham - July 21, 2007
Information and Participation can make a difference in our environment. Currently several environmental groups are objecting to decisions of the current Executive Director of the Texas Environmental Air Quality Commission. Citizens usually only catch a snippet on a television news broadcast or occasionally read of controversies regarding air quality and water quality permits in the newspaper. Citizens can go directly to the source to find out the status of permits. There are ways to find out the facts for yourself so that you can decide for yourself what is best for you environmentally. When you oppose a permit, or disagree with the decision of the TCEQ, there is a public participation process which enables you to protest or contest agency decisions.


The Texas Environmental Air Quality Commission publishes the status of permits on their website. For several of the searches, the permit number must be entered in the query field. These projects and their permit number, name of company and county are listed in the Director's Marked Agenda, They are listed by month and year for 2005-2007. In the archives they are listed by year from 1999-2004.

So far this month (July 2007) the executive director has signed 30 permit authorizations. To see the details of these permits. Some are permit amendments, permit renewals or new permit applications.

Citizens can track a pending enforcement complaint, track status of a complaint or read about the enforcement process.

Public Participation
The TCEQ's Public Participation Policies are posted on their website describing how citizens can participation in the process for approving/rejecting applications for water quality, waste, and air permits, when a contested case hearing is possible under Texas law.

Past and Future Agendas and Work Sessions for Commmission and Executive Director are online. Webcast of Commission Agenda Meetings and Work Sessions can be viewed online live or from the archive. The action taken by TCEQ Commissioners are posted on the Commissioners' Marked Agenda's link. (The archive contains marked agenda's from 1990-to present). The TCEQ Chief Clerk's database will show:
1. Status of pending permit applications, registrations, license applications, enforcement actions, transfers of ownership of facilities and issuance of bonds for water districts, utility and rate services.
2. Comment period deadline, information about whether a contested case hearing has been requested on an item or whether comments have been received. (The TCEQ Office of Public Assistance provides detailed information about scheduled contested case hearings or public hearings.)
3. Whether the item has been set for consideration at the TCEQ Commissioners' Agenda or for the Executive Director's Agenda

Subscribe to e-mail news releases and updates for TCEQ Rules, Commission Meetings and Actions, Enforcement, Publications and Online Resources, Air Quality, Water Quality, Air Permitting and Compliance, Waste Water Exchance Network and sources for acquiring or selling recycled materials. There are mailing lists of businesses which help in the recycling process.

There are also 5 listservers (similar to mailing lists) for updates and announcements concerning air permitting applications.
To join an Advisory and Stakeholder Listserver E-mail Group, send a blank email to one of the following:
for the landfill listserver: join-mswl@listserv.tceq.state.tx.us

for the oil and gas listserver: join-oilandgas@listserv.tceq.state.tx.us

for the Bulk Fuel Terminal GOP listserver: join-bulkfuel@listserv.tceq.state.tx.us

for the Site-Wide GOP listserver: join-sitewide@listserv.tceq.state.tx.us

for the PBR study listserver: join-pbrproj@listserv.tceq.state.tx.us

for the aci listserver: join-aci@listserv.tceq.state.tx.us

An email will be sent confirming your subscription to the list.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the leading environmental protection agency of the state of Texas. Three full-time commissioners, appointed by the governor, establish overall agency direction and policy, and make final determinations on contested permitting and enforcement matters. An executive director, hired by the commissioners, is responsible for managing the agency's day-to-day operations.

Among its many functions, the TCEQ must review applications for a wide variety of environmental permits. The procedures outlined here cover applications for the following types of permits (as well as certain amendments and renewals of these permits):

Water quality permits
Beneficial land use permits
New source review air permits
Municipal solid waste permits
Industrial solid waste permits
Hazardous waste permits
Underground injection well permits

The first phase of the environmental review process is the Administrative Review where staff inspects the application to see that all the required parts of the application have been submitted. if it is complete, the agency issues a NORI (Nothce of REceipt of Applicatin and Intent to Obtain Permit)

Responding to the Public Notice
All NORIS provide instructions for submitting comments, getting on the mailing list, requesting a public meeting, and requesting a contested case hearing. Written public comments—including concerns and questions regarding the proposed application—and requests for public meetings and/or contested case hearings should be submitted to:
Office of the Chief Clerk, MC 105
PO Box 13087
Austin, TX 78711-3087

Comments may be faxed to the Office of the Chief Clerk at 512-239-3311 no later than 5:00 p.m. on the last day of the comment period. However, the original must also be mailed or hand delivered to the chief clerk and received within three business days after faxing. In accordance with current agency regulations, comments or requests sent by e-mail will not be accepted.

Getting on a Mailing List

A citizen can request to be placed on two kinds of mailing lists by sending a written request to the chief clerk, specifying the mailing list or lists you want to be on, and provide your complete name and address.
The lists are:
1. The permanent mailing list for a specific applicant name and permit number.
2. The permanent mailing list for a specific county (which includes all air, water, and waste notices in that county).

Those who submit a comment, request a public meeting, or request a contested case hearing regarding a specific application, are automatically added to the mailing list for that specific permit application.

Requesting a Public Meeting

Public meetings provide the public with an opportunity to learn about the application, ask questions of the applicant and TCEQ, and offer formal comments. It also allows TCEQ staff to hear firsthand the concerns and objections of the community and gather input for use in the agency's consideration of the application. No decision to approve or deny an application is made at a public meeting.

The TCEQ will hold a public meeting if there is significant interest in an application, if requested by a legislator from the area of the proposed project, or if otherwise required by law.

A request for a public meeting must be submitted in writing to the chief clerk during the public comment period and must specify that it is a request for a "public meeting."

The agency distinguished between PUBLIC HEARINGS and PUBLIC MEETINGS.
A request asking for a "public hearing" will be considered a request for a contested case hearing

Requesting a Contested Case Hearing

The commissioners' decision whether to grant a hearing is based in part on the information provided by the requester. The person requesting a hearing must demonstrate that they are an "affected person" in order to be granted party status. This means that the requester must be personally impacted by the permit decision and that granting the permit would affect interests specific to the requester that the public in general would not share, such as impairing the requester's health or safety or interfering with the requester's use or enjoyment of their property. Affected parties may use this process to challenge the executive director's preliminary decision on an application.

A contested case hearing is a legal proceeding similar to a civil trial in state district court. Hearings are conducted by the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH), an independent agency that conducts hearings for state agencies. When a contested case is referred to SOAH, an administrative law judge will preside over the hearing and will consider evidence in the form of sworn witness testimony and documents presented as exhibits.

Because contested case hearings are legal proceedings, parties may wish to hire an attorney to ensure that their interests are fully represented. However, representation by an attorney is not required.

Requests for contested case hearings must include the following information:

1. The requester's name, address, and daytime telephone number.
2. The permit number and applicant's name.
3. A statement clearly requesting a "contested case hearing."
4. The location of the requester's home, business, or property that is affected, and its distance from the proposed facility.
5. A detailed explanation of how the requester would be adversely affected by the proposed facility or activity in a manner not common to the general public.
6. If the request is made on behalf of a group or an association, the request must identify one or more members who have standing to request a hearing, and state how the interest that the group or association seeks to protect is relevant to the group's purpose.

Please Note: To retain the right to a contested case hearing on an air permit application, there must be at least one request for hearing submitted within the time frame specified in the NORI. For more information on this, see "Technical Review of Permit Applications," below.

Technical Review of Permit Applications
After agency staff have determined the application to be complete, staff reviews it to see if it complies with state and federal regulations. It it passes this TECHNICAL REVIEW, the executive director (ED) issues a preliminary decision in a NAPD (Notice of Application and Preliminary Decision. The NAPD is published in a newspaper and mailed to the mailing list. It contains the same information as the NORI and provides additional opportunity for the public to submit comments, request a public meeting and/or hearing.

Second notices are required for most permits. However, Air Quality Applications for registration of a concrete batch plant standard permit are required only when a request for a contested case hearing was made during the first notice (NORI) and was not withdrawn before the preliminary decision was announced.

Public Comment Period closes 30 days after the publication of the NAPD. If no contested case hearing was requested for an Air Quality permit, the public comment period ends on the "end of public notice date" announced in the NORI.

There are three ways to protest the permit decision of the Executive Director:

1. Request a contested case hearing

2. Request a reconsideration
After the decision letter has been mailed, any person has the option of filing a request for reconsideration, which asks the commissioners to reconsider the ED's decision. The request should include name, address, and phone number, and why you believe the decision should be reconsidered. The request for reconsideration must be received no later than 30 days after the date of the decision

If the commissioners decide to grant a request for a contested case hearing, the case is referred to SOAH with a list of issues to be the subject of the hearing and an expected duration for the hearing. At the conclusion of the SOAH hearing, the judge issues a proposal for decision, which is submitted to the TCEQ for formal consideration. The commissioners then approve, deny, or modify the proposal for decision.

When it appears that the parties may reach a compromise, the Commissioners may refer the application for alternate dispute resolution so that the dispute can be settled through mediation. If the dispute is not resolved, the hearing process is continued.

3. File a motion to overturn the decision of the Executive Director.
If no request for hearing or reconsideration is received and the executive director issues the permit, any person may file a motion to overturn, requesting that the commissioners overturn the executive director's action. The motion must be filed no later than 23 days after the date the agency mails notice of the signed permit, and must explain why the commissioners should review the ED's action. If a motion to overturn has not been acted on by the commissioners within 45 days after the date the agency mails notice of the signed permit, the motion is thereby denied, unless an extension of time is specifically granted.

If the commissioners approve a permit application after it has gone through the contested case hearing process, protestants may submit a motion for rehearing, requesting that the commissioners review their decision. This motion for rehearing is a prerequisite to appeal and must be submitted within 20 days after you are notified of the decision. If the commissioners do not act on the motion within 45 days after you are notified of the decision, the motion is overruled by operation of law. If the commissioners do not receive a motion for rehearing, the action of the commissioners will become final

For More Information
Office of Public Assistance
Provides information on the permitting process, the status of applications, public meeting procedures, and permitting issues for low-income and minority communities.

Office of Public Interest Counsel
Explains legal procedures for challenging permit applications, such as hearings.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
Assists with the informal resolution of contested matters.

If you can't find it online, you can submit an OPEN RECORDS REQUEST.
Instructions are online.

Environmental groups try to push out head of environmental agency

Billboard, Web site, letter-writing campaign dedicated to effort.
By Asher Price - AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF - Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Environmental groups have launched a $20,000 campaign to topple the chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, including renting a billboard near the commission's headquarters demanding that the governor appoint a new chairperson.

The billboard, which rents for $8,000 a month, faces south near the intersection of Braker Lane and Interstate 35 and asks the governor to replace Chairwoman Kathleen Hartnett White. It has a picture of a coal-fired power plant with the word APPROVED stamped over it.

Government watchdog and environmental group Public Citizen said it used membership money to pay for the campaign, which includes a Web site (www.getwhiteout.com), a letter-writing effort addressed to Gov. Rick Perry, and a 10,000-piece mailing.

Last month, over the objections of the agency's own public interest counsel and state administrative law judges, she approved an air permit for a coal-fired power plant in Robertson County that critics contend could harm Austin's air quality.

A commission spokesman, Andy Saenz, says White planned months ago to leave office by the time her term ends at the end of August.

The billboard is a "tremendous waste of space and money," Saenz said.
Read more in the Austin American Statesman

Read Bio of Cathleen Hartnett White on TEQC website.

FOLLOWUP - A pricey victory for environmental groups

By Asher Price - Austin American Statesman - Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Can environmentalists rightfully claim their day-old Get-White-Out campaign has been a rousing success, or are they just trying to spin their way out of a costly, ineffective exercise?

In a scuttlebutt item in today’s paper we wrote that environmental group and government watchdog Public Citizen had launched a $20,000 campaign to push Kathleen Hartnett White, the chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, out of office. The campaign includes a Web site and a billboard near TCEQ headquarters warning that her decisions have endangered public health.

White had angered environmentalists by approving a coal-fired power plant about 100 miles from Austin. Last April she had written the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to oppose stricter caps on ozone, a lung-damaging pollutant. And her agency has been criticized for not exacting harsher penalties from polluters. (Among the critics was the state auditor’s office, in a 2003 report.)

Well, a spokesman for White told us that for months she had planned to leave by the end of her term, which falls on Aug. 31; he called the campaign a waste of time and money.

When I asked Tom “Smitty” Smith, the head of Public Citizen about that, he said he had heard rumors about White’s departure for a while, but never anything official. He also said that the campaign serves notice that political appointees will face close scrutiny and that Gov. Perry should appoint a “tough visionary” to be chair of the commission.

This afternoon I received a statement from Public Citizen, which said that White’s departure “is a victory for those in the environmental community who recently began calling for her ouster. Although state officials claim they were aware of her impending departure, it wasn’t until Public Citizen put up a billboard calling for her to be replaced that state representatives told the public of White’s plans.”

At $20,000 to learn that your target was leaving office in any case (and without any sense that her replacement will be any more sympathetic to environmentalists), this might be a bit of a pyrrhic victory.

Read more in the Austin American Statesman

Public utility commission clears way for more wind power

State will determine routes for transmission lines to rural areas
By Asher Price - AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF - Saturday, July 21, 2007
The state Public Utility Commission opened the way for a big boost in wind power production in Texas on Friday.

The commission designated swaths of the state for the construction of new power lines that would carry wind-generated electricity to consumers. The decision serves as a pledge that the state will help build those lines, giving wind power developers the confidence to build turbines in far-flung, windy areas of Texas, according to Mike Aaron, a staff member with Virtus Energy, an Austin renewable energy consulting firm.

The state is the nation's leading producer of wind power. In 2006, Texas added 774 megawatts of wind energy capacity. But Friday's decision directs the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state's electric grid, to plan for power lines that could deliver at least 10,000 more megawatts of renewable power by 2012.

That amount is enough to power nearly 3 million homes. The lines could end up delivering as much as 25,000 megawatts of wind energy, depending on how many wind farms are eventually built.

Wind developers cheered the decision.

"The windiest areas of the state are far from cities," Aaron said. "This gives certainty to wind developers that there will be transmission to those areas."

He said it can take a year to build a wind farm, but five to build the transmission lines needed to send power to cities.

In 2005, the Legislature passed a measure requiring that the utility commission designate zones and accompanying transmission projects to boost the flow of renewable energy into more populated areas.

A recent report by the state energy conservation office called transmission "the greatest hurdle facing the wind industry."

"Transmission constraints in far West Texas have negatively affected the operations of large winds farms in this prime wind generation area," according to the report.

Environmental groups who had pushed the state to invest in conservation and renewable energy projects to satisfy Texas' growing appetite for power also applauded the utility commission's decision.

"We commend the utility industry for rising to the challenge in meeting Texans' demands for cleaner, safe sources of energy," Scott Anderson, an energy policy specialist for Environmental Defense, said in a statement.

Read more in the Austin American Statesman

Electric Co-op's lack of transparency sparks customer revolt

Pedernales unlikely candidate for controversy
Electric coop attracting lawsuit, controversy, legislative attention.

By Laylan Copelin and Claudia Grisales - AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF - Sunday, July 22, 2007

At first glance, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative seems an unlikely candidate for controversy. The largest in the United States, it boasts of reasonable rates, reliable service and the highest rating for customer satisfaction among the state's electric utilities.

Yet it is facing a co-op member revolt and lawsuit and a state senator's threat of legislative intervention.

Why all the fuss?

The answer, in large part, lies in the co-op's longstanding operational mode of doing things its own way. For instance:

•Despite accruing millions in surplus revenues over the years, Pedernales has never paid dividends to its member customers in Central Texas.

More than 80 percent of the nation's cooperatives, according to a study by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, pay such dividends — also known as capital credits — to build customer loyalty and avoid litigation.

•It pays its part-time board members an average of $35,590 annually, the highest among the state's 10 largest co-ops, an amount the lawsuit claims is excessive.

•Its longtime board president, former Hays County Judge W.W. "Bud" Burnett, is paid $188,730 annually to handle a host of external relations for the utility although he has no staff and no office and divides his time between his home in Hays County and a New Mexico ranch.

Alone among the state's largest electric cooperatives, Pedernales refused to disclose any salary information for key employees, despite Internal Revenue Service rules requiring such disclosure for "chief management and administrative officials." Its failure to do so was an issue in the lawsuit.

On Tuesday, Pedernales reported on its Web site that it paid $391,652 to General Manager Bennie Fuelberg in 2006.

But Fuelberg's total compensation might be much higher.

According to information from a source familiar with the cooperative's finances, who requested anonymity, that figure does not include a bonus of about $375,000 that Fuelberg received upon signing his new contract several years ago.

What appears to be a localized squabble could spotlight accountability issues for all electric cooperatives in Texas.

Since the Legislature deregulated the power industry in 1999, these customer-owned utilities enjoy the best of both worlds: Most are state-protected monopolies that pay no federal income taxes. Yet they aren't covered by state open meetings or open records laws, and utility regulators no longer oversee their books or business practices.

Today, the Pedernales cooperative answers only to its 212,000 members — basically, its customers in 24 counties — and only through a 17-member board that critics say is a self-perpetuating, insular entity that keeps members in the dark. The board disputes that. But it decided to disclose Fuelberg's pay during a workshop session in San Antonio to talk about the lawsuit and revise the cooperative's bylaws to clean up outdated language, Burnett said.

Questions about conflicts between the bylaws and actual operating practices were raised at the co-op's tumultuous annual meeting in June, when members attempted to elect an outside slate of candidates for the board.

"We haven't resolved every issue on the bylaws, but that's a lengthy process. There's some archaic language in there. . . . It's been a vigorous discussion," Burnett said between the workshop sessions last week.

In addition to contending that Pedernales pays its officers and board members too much, the lawsuit argues that Burnett does not work full time as he and the co-op's tax forms claim and that the policy of withholding capital credits from members violates state law.

The co-op, through its lawyers, denies the allegations and seeks to have the lawsuit dismissed.

Fuelberg has blamed the lawsuit on greedy lawyers representing a handful of disgruntled members. He defended the co-op's "stellar" business practices and declared management's willingness to deal with member issues when warranted.

"Hunkering down is not our way of doing business," said Fuelberg, who has been general manager since 1976.

A senator weighs in

Pedernales Electric Cooperative played a starring role in then-U.S. Rep. Lyndon Johnson's efforts to bring electricity to the impoverished farmers of the rural Hill Country in the 1930s.

Today, the once-struggling company generates the highest revenue of any electric co-op in the nation, thanks to booming development of Austin's suburbs.

Two-thirds of Pedernales' member customers are in the fast-growing western parts of Travis, Williamson and Hays counties. The cooperative is adding 11,000 meters a year, a 5 percent increase.

That steady expansion is cited by Fuelberg in justifying compensation for its board.

Growth is also Exhibit A in the co-op's case against returning dividends, also known as capital credits, to its members.

Though most electric cooperatives return a percentage of their profits to members, Pedernales has never done so, even during decades when growth was much slower.

Fuelberg and Burnett defend that policy as prudent for the co-op's financial health.

The $226 million in accumulated capital credits that is carried on Pedernales' books, they say, is committed to other needs within the utility.

"What you pay back in capital credits . . . has to be made up for somewhere if you're going to keep a level financial condition of the system. How do you raise that? You can raise fees, you can cut services, or you can raise rates. If you're talking about paying back a significant amount of money, that has to come from somewhere," Burnett said.

The controversy at co-op has attracted the attention of state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, who is a Pedernales customer and member — along with many of his constituents — and chairman of a Senate committee overseeing the power industry.

In the regulatory void created by deregulation, Fraser said the Legislature should start reviewing the practices of city-owned and cooperative power providers.

Fraser said he had trouble getting information from Pedernales about salaries and the accounts from which the dividends would be paid. He said Burnett, whose responsibilities include dealing with state officials, did not return several phone calls, though he did talk to Fuelberg.

"They have been very guarded in what they give their members," Fraser said. "Even though I am a member and an elected official, I have had difficulty even getting that information."

The senator said he's confident that Pedernales will respond in the next few months to his concerns about compensation, transparency and dividends. If not, he said, his committee might use subpoenas to gather the information.

"These are things that they have the power to address themselves," Fraser said. "Obviously, the Legislature has the authority to address this issue, but it is not my preference."

A special position

The lawsuit, like many of Pedernales' current public relations problems, has its origins in a failure to communicate.

In January, Lee Beck Lawrence, a Pedernales customer whose grandfather once served on the cooperative's board, wrote Burnett asking him about news reports about his $188,730 salary.

When Lawrence never heard back (Fuelberg said the response didn't get mailed by mistake), she didn't let it drop.

Her husband is a partner of Jan Soifer, an Austin lawyer who sued and won a $21 million judgment in 2004 against a Dallas foundation for excessive compensation of its officers.

Soifer, now joined by Baker & McKenzie, one of the world's largest law firms, sued on behalf of Lawrence and other members after Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott refused to get involved.

At the annual meeting in June, several hundred members supported a call for more openness by Pedernales' management.

Such riffs are not new to Pedernales; in the 1980s, a member uprising made headlines and led to changes in the co-op's voting process.

But usually, the co-op boasts of happy members: A J.D. Power & Associates study of electric utilities gave Pedernales one of the highest residential customer satisfaction ratings in the country last year, the best in Texas.

In 2005, the last year for which reports are available, Pedernales paid members of its board of directors, on average, $35,590 plus benefits.

"The numbers are small," Fuelberg said, "for a co-op this size."

It's more than twice the average pay for directors ($16,545) at Bastrop's Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, which is about one-third the size of Pedernales.

The bylaws for Pedernales prohibit paying salaries to members of the board of directors but allow a fixed sum and expenses for attending board meetings and per diem expenses for attending other sorts of meetings.

Six or seven years ago, Fuelberg said, the board interpreted the rules to allow a flat monthly sum for board members..

According to co-op attorney Walter Demond, the bylaws are now being rewritten to clarify the monthly fee for various directors' activities.

Tax returns that show board members working only one to four hours a week on Pedernales business are inaccurate, said Fuelberg, terming those hours "a filler number" that will be corrected in the 2006 filing, due in August.

Although Pedernales discloses the compensation of its board, it has refused to release details on trips and related expenses incurred by board members and the general manager during the past seven years.

It also refuses to release its IRS tax filings from the 1990s, when the state Public Utility Commission still regulated the cooperative.

The commission no longer has those records, which could help show how board compensation has escalated since deregulation.

News reports from 1976 indicate board members were paid $75 for each meeting they attended.

Burnett, who keeps no regular office hours at the cooperative, confirmed he does not put in the 44-hour workweek that Pedernales reported to the IRS.

"I don't know where that figure came from; it didn't come from me," Burnett said.

Demond said, "We're going to correct those forms."

Still, Burnett said, he is a dedicated, full-time employee. "I don't have any other business; I don't have any other employment," he said. "I devote a lot of time to struggling with big policies at PEC, and I work closely with Bennie."

His 14,000-acre ranch near Duran, N.M., is leased by other ranchers, he said, adding, "I wish I could spend all my time out there, but I don't."

Fuelberg has said that he and Burnett talk by phone almost daily and that Burnett comes to the Johnson City headquarters as needed.

Burnett's title as coordinator charges him with handling external affairs such as government relations, right-of-way issues and negotiations with the Lower Colorado River Authority, which generates the electricity Pedernales sells.

It also makes him an employee of the board he leads.

It's an unusual arrangement dating back to the 1960s and another president, the late E. "Babe" Smith, whose name is on the Johnson City headquarters.

In 1975, according to news reports, Smith was paid $32,375, more than the general manager. In today's dollars, that would be $117,000.

Burnett will celebrate his 40th year on the board in February.

Fraser wonders whether his position as coordinator is still needed. "I asked questions about his job," he said. "The message I have received is that, probably, the job right now is not necessary."
Read more in the Austin American Statesman

Friday, July 20, 2007


U.S. Justice Department - June 20, 2007

WASHINGTON—Overseas Shipholding Group Inc. (OSG) was sentenced today in Beaumont, Texas to pay $10 million as part of a $37 million criminal settlement with the United States involving 33 felony counts, 12 oil tankers and ports located in Beaumont, TX, Boston, MA, Portland, ME, San Francisco, CA, and Wilmington, NC, announced Ronald J. Tenpas, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment & Natural Resources Division, and John L. Ratcliffe, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.

The total $37 million penalty is the largest-ever involving deliberate vessel pollution and was announced on Dec. 19, 2006 in Boston. The charges involving 12 OSG oil tankers range from June 2001 to March 2006 and include violations of the Clean Water Act, as amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, conspiracy, false statements, and obstruction of justice. In pleading guilty, OSG admitted that it deliberately falsified the Oil Record Book of various ships, a required log in which all overboard discharges are to be accurately recorded, made discharges at night, and concealed bypass methods used to circumvent required pollution prevention equipment during U.S. port calls so that the Coast Guard would not discover the criminal activity.

The $37 million penalty includes a $27.8 million criminal fine and a $9.2 million organizational community service payment that will fund various environmental projects coast-to-coast. For the part of the case in East Texas, U.S. District Court Judge Thad Heartfield today approved the proposed plea agreement with federal prosecutors and sentenced OSG to pay a total of $7 million ($5.3 million criminal fine and $1.7 million in community service) immediately for making false statements to the Coast Guard. OSG was ordered to pay another $3 million in escrow for additional charges that will bring the total to $10 million in the Eastern District of Texas.

In accordance with the plea agreement, Judge Heartfield sentenced OSG to make $1.7 million in community service payments to the National Park Foundation and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for the explicit goal of funding environmental projects and initiatives designed to benefit, preserve and restore the environment and ecosystems in the Eastern District of Texas, including the waters along the counties of Jefferson, Orange, Hardin, Liberty, Tyler, Jasper and Newton. Funds were designated for various projects including environmental education to be conducted by the Environmental Learning and Research Center at Lamar University and to further the acquisition of land to be added to the Big Thicket National Preserve by the Conservation Fund. A total of $2 million ($540,000 in East Texas) is designated to fund a satellite surveillance pilot program to monitor ships off the U.S. coast.

Prosecutors credited OSG’s self-disclosures, cooperation and compliance measures taken by proposing fewer charges and reduced criminal fines. OSG is a U.S. corporation headquartered in New York and is one of the largest publicly traded tanker companies in the world. OSG was sentenced to serve a three-year term of probation during which it must implement and follow a stringent environmental compliance program that includes a court-appointed monitor and outside independent auditing of OSG ships trading worldwide.

At the sentencing hearing today, Judge Heartfield termed the regular circumvention of pollution prevention equipment and falsification of ship logs to be “a serious string of events that allowed the company to avoid large scale costs and continue to enjoy substantial pecuniary gain.” The sentence of criminal fines, community service and probation “will promote just punishment and respect for the law,” said Judge Heartfield

The investigation and prosecution was conducted through the combined efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard units in each port, including Port Arthur and Houston, Texas, the Coast Guard Investigative Service, Coast Guard Office of Maritime and International Law, Coast Guard Office of Investigations and Analysis. The case was prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the affected districts.

See US Justice Department Statement


TEXARKANA, TX – United States Attorney John L. Ratcliffe announced today that a Dallas based Production Company has pleaded guilty to a violation of the Migratory Bird Act Treaty in the Eastern District of Texas

SPINDLETOP DRILLING COMPANY, based in Dallas, Texas, accepted responsibility for committing the offense of Unlawfully Taking Migratory Birds. The plea was heard before United States Magistrate Judge Carolyn Craven.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act criminalizes even the unintentional capture or killing of migratory birds if it occurs without a license or permit.

According to information presented in court, on September 6, 2006, agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service performed an inspection of the company’s “Pewitt D” lease in rural Titus County. The inspection led to the discovery of approximately twelve dead Northern Mockingbirds and one dead Mourning Dove in an oil sludge pit on the lease. While Spindletop had originally netted the pit to prevent such an occurrence, over time portions of the net had sunk below the surface. As a result, Spindletop has agreed to pay $10,000.00 in restitution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and to be subject to a two-year probationary term. At the hearing, Spindletop offered photographs and testimony demonstrating that it had already made the necessary repairs to the netting over the oil sludge pit and was implementing additional compliance mechanisms to avoid any future incidents.

This case was investigated by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, Ft. Worth Office. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jim Noble

See statement by US Dept. of Justice

Gas companies requested to review pipes

By BRETT SHIPP - WFAA -TV - Thursday, July 19, 2007

WYLIE — A deadly natural gas explosion in Wylie last October has spawned a major safety initiative by the Texas Railroad Commission.

The state's natural gas regulatory agency has requested all gas companies to survey their use of a particular pipe and fitting that malfunctioned and is blamed for the Wylie deaths last fall.

A state Railroad Commission investigation released last March found that a faulty coupling under the alley caused the explosion that leveled the house where Benny and Martha Cryer were sleeping inside.

Both were killed in the explosion.

The pipe and fitting being blamed for the natural gas leak is called a compression coupling and riser and their safety and integrity are being questioned.

In the hours that followed the Wylie explosion, Atmos Energy scoured the neighborhood and found 21 defective riser pipes and couplings that needed to be replaced.

Some 24 gas leaks were found.

In a letter dated July 17th, Railroad Commission safety Director Mary McDaniel issues a "safety inquiry" notice to all gas service companies in Texas seeking information about "any leaks or failures of compression risers" and any information regarding the recommended "discontinuance of these risers."

Pipeline expert Don Deaver of Houston and says he has seen extensive problems with these particular pipes and fittings across the state.

The last one he saw involved an explosion in west Dallas in 2001 in which four teens were horribly burned.

Atmos officials say they have discussed compression fittings safety issue with Railroad Commission officials and are complying with all requests.

But Deaver says gas companies need to be more than compliant.

He says they need to replace old compression risers and hopefully help prevent another tragedy. "This is a problem," said Deaver, "this is not a remote problem that happens infrequently, it does happen quite a bit."

Read more

See also House explodes in Wylie; elderly couple dead
By CYNTHIA VEGA - WFAA-TV - Monday, October 16, 2006
WYLIE — An explosion and fire early Monday morning leveled the home of an elderly man and woman who neighbors called the anchors of their Wylie neighborhood.

Both died as a result, and surrounding homes were evacuated as a precaution.

"It just blew up," said Pam Willey. She said the couple was trapped in a raging inferno in the house in the 300 block of South 3rd Street. Her husband tried to help the victims before firefighters arrived by spraying water on them.

"We couldn't quite reach them because it was so hot," Willey said. "My husband kept trying to keep the hose on them to keep them from burning; I mean, we didn't know what else to do."

Benny Cryer, 78, was killed; his 77-year-old wife, Martha, was critically injured. She was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas for emergency treatment, where she later died.

Shocked neighbors told News 8 that the Cryers had lived in the house since it was built in 1964.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. Firefighters said flammable oxygen was being used in the house but they also discovered elevated levels of natural gas in a sewer line.

Sixteen homes on either side of the Cryer home were evacuated as a precaution.

Plano firefighters assisted Wylie units in battling the three-alarm blaze that leveled the building.

An American flag was still flying in the yard at daybreak—a reflection of Benny Cryer's patriotism. He was said by neighbors to be a military veteran.

"They were really sweet people, and they deserved as much help as they could get," Willey said.

Wylie is 14 miles east of Plano in Collin County.

Breathless - August Edition of D Magazine

By Terri Meza and Faith Chatham - July 20, 2007
The August edition of D Magazine has a great article on air quality in North Texas. The article is titled "Breathless".

Why Our Air is Bad, How We Can Fix It - D Magazine - Thursday, July 19, 2007

Toyin Sosanya will never forget the day her 2-year-old daughter almost suffocated. Little Myra started gasping for no apparent reason. The gasps persisted in the local emergency room, even after the doctors—and Toyin, a pharmacist—suspected asthma and gave Myra a dose of albuterol through an inhaler. No effect. They put the inhaler to her mouth and tried again, then a third time. They continued this as they loaded Myra back in the car and sped to Children’s Medical Center, where doctors, fearing for her life, gave Myra an IV of epinephrine, or adrenaline, which finally returned her breathing to normal.

But soon after, Myra’s twin sister, Tyra, developed asthma. Their older sister, Alexis, then 4, already had it. Toyin missed a lot of work ushering her children between hospital visits, hoping to figure out what caused the attacks. Finally, Toyin got her answer: the doctor said the attacks had to do with Dallas’ poor air quality.

“Maybe you should consider moving out of Texas,” the doctor told her, “somewhere where the air is better.”

Texas is a notoriously filthy state. We emit more carbon dioxide than any other state in the country. In fact, we emit more carbon dioxide, 1.5 trillion pounds a year, than all but six nations in the world.

But ozone is a bigger problem. Cars, trucks, and power plants emit the nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons that become ozone in the atmosphere. Dallas-Fort Worth’s ozone pollution is the seventh worst in the nation, according to the American Lung Association’s 2007 “State of the Air” report—which is worse than we fared in 2006, when Dallas-Fort Worth ranked eighth. Our ozone is worse than cities with larger populations such as New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Ozone pollution scars the lungs and leaves them susceptible to respiratory infection. Children are particularly vulnerable, especially asthmatic children. This partly explains why Children’s Medical Center Dallas has one of the busiest pediatric emergency rooms in the nation. Its No. 1 cause for admittance is asthma attacks, which have become so frequent that the hospital has an asthma treatment room in the ER. During the summer, when ozone is at its worst, the brightly lit room is strewn with toys and filled with children receiving medicated aerosols through oxygen masks. The Allergy and Immunology Clinic at Children’s fields 60 to 70 requests for new patients a week. And there are nearly 60,000 estimated asthmatic children in Dallas County..continued

I'm the only person in my family who has asthma. I didn't develop it until after I moved back to the DFW area when I was in my forties. This paragraph caught my eye!
...Gauderman and his team found what might be a link between air pollution and new asthma. That is to say, not only does air pollution trigger an attack in a child with asthma, but air pollution may actually cause asthma in a child who didn’t have it. If true, this may explain why some children develop asthma even if no one in their family has it, even though it’s largely considered a hereditary condition.

The author points out something that citizens really need to comprehend.

The Bad Guys in This Fight Will Surprise You
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the environmental agency for the state. It is difficult to imagine another environmental agency that cares less about the environment.

Consider its “smog plan.” Dallas is, as you now know, a dirty place to live. The Environmental Protection Agency knows this and has told TCEQ to find a way to make Dallas cleaner or the EPA will reserve the right to withhold Dallas’ federal transportation dollars come 2010—as much as $400 million. So TCEQ spent the past three years creating a plan, holding meetings to debate the plan, and then tweaking it. The final draft was presented in May.

But the plan as it stands now doesn’t actually get North Texas in compliance with the EPA. It gets us close, and the EPA in similar situations in the past has said close is good enough. But this time, the EPA’s regional director, Richard Greene, sent the state a memo in late May saying he doubted TCEQ’s plan would cut it. He doubted whether it would get federal approval. The reason: TCEQ had failed to consider the impact of all those diesel engines running drilling equipment in the Barnett Shale, the natural gas field that stretches from the Mid Cities to west of Fort Worth. Nevertheless, the three TCEQ commissioners voted to approve the plan, and the commission’s chair, Kathleen Hartnett White, wrote an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News expressing her “confidence” in this “aggressive” policy and its intent to meet federal air standards...

(Requires D Magazine subscription or guest pass to view complete article)

While visiting D/Magazine we recommend that you review their archive on the Trinity River Project which can be found under "Environment and Development".

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Deregulation - Why You Pay More

by lightseeker - Texas Kaos - Wed Jul 18, 2007
The short and sweet of this TV report is this:

But the bottom line is: Consumers in deregulated areas of the state are paying more. For 1,000 kilowatt hours, which is typical for a Texas home, TXU charges $129.70. Its lowest-priced competitor, Amigo Energy, charges $114.90.

But if you live in the state capital, your bill from Austin Energy is just $87.28.

And why? It's the free market stupid!

Deregulation: Raw deal for power users

Austin Energy operates much like TXU did before deregulation; the customer's bill is based on the cost of making electricity. The city of Austin owns gas-burning plants, coal-fired generators and part of a nuclear station. Because gas prices have tripled in recent years, they use the gas plants as little as possible, and pass the savings on to consumers.

"And that cost can be five to ten times as much as if you were able to get coal or nuclear-based power," explained Austin Energy spokesman Michael McCluskey.

TXU owns coal, gas and nuclear plants, too. But under the deregulation law, the power generation part of the company—Luminant—is now separate. It sells the power it makes to TXU and other competitors on the open market—often for much more than it costs to generate.

"They're charging you for all the electricity they sell, as if it were made from natural gas," Smith said. "About 60 percent of the electricty you consume is coming from coal and nuclear power plants, which provide electricty at a fraction of the cost."

Read more

Deregulation: Raw deal for power users
By GARY REAVES - WFAA-TV - Friday, July 13, 2007
AUSTIN — He's lowered the temperature; installed efficient lights; even installed a smaller dishwasher.

But frugality isn't the only reason Mike Sloan's electric bills are ridiculously low.

The primary factor is where he lives—Austin. The power company is owned by the city and is committed to keeping rates low.

Most Texans get power comes from private companies like TXU that also have to make a profit.

TXU in North Texas, like Reliant Energy in Houston, had been monoplies, with prices regulated by the state. State lawmakers figured if they broke up the monopolies and made them compete with one another, competition would push prices down.

Instead—fueled by the rising cost of natural gas—electric bills skyrocketed.

"You're paying a Cadillac price for Chevrolet power in the D/FW area," said Tom Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group. "The reason TXU is charging you so much is because of deregulation."

Austin Energy operates much like TXU did before deregulation; the customer's bill is based on the cost of making electricity.

The city of Austin owns gas-burning plants, coal-fired generators and part of a nuclear station. Because gas prices have tripled in recent years, they use the gas plants as little as possible, and pass the savings on to consumers.

"And that cost can be five to ten times as much as if you were able to get coal or nuclear-based power," explained Austin Energy spokesman Michael McCluskey.

TXU owns coal, gas and nuclear plants, too. But under the deregulation law, the power generation part of the company—Luminant—is now separate. It sells the power it makes to TXU and other competitors on the open market—often for much more than it costs to generate.

"They're charging you for all the electricity they sell, as if it were made from natural gas," Smith said. "About 60 percent of the electricty you consume is coming from coal and nuclear power plants, which provide electricty at a fraction of the cost."

TXU spokeswoman Lisa Singleton said its Luminant division charges a "fair, market-based, wholesale price for the power produced." She said there were other factors beyond the price of gas that determine the price per kilowatt.

But the bottom line is: Consumers in deregulated areas of the state are paying more.

For 1,000 kilowatt hours, which is typical for a Texas home, TXU charges $129.70. Its lowest-priced competitor, Amigo Energy, charges $114.90.

But if you live in the state capital, your bill from Austin Energy is just $87.28.

Privately-owned utilities that are still regulated also charge less.
Amarillo consumers pay $78.84;
in Beaumont, 1,000 kilowatt hours is just $72.24.
Both cities get more of their power from cheaper coal or nuclear power, but since they remain regulated, consumers get the benefit of their lower costs.

Critics say these numbers prove deregulation isn't working. But a recent state study of the last four years says that without deregulation, we'd be paying even more.

"We concluded the average customer in Dallas and Houston has saved money—about $800 in Dallas and about $1,400 in Houston," said Barry Smitherman of the Texas Public Utility Commission.

He concedes that deregulation would have worked better if gas prices had stayed low. Smitherman says if customers will shop around, they'll put pressure on TXU and others to cut prices.

With time and competition, the PUC predicts rates will come down—but they're not likely to ever be as low as Mike Sloan's deal in Austin, where the power company is busy pushing a conservation scheme by installing thousands of thermostats designed to shut down air conditioners for up to 20 minutes an hour.

That will delay the need to build two new and expensive power plants.

Also Online
Texas Electric Choice from Texas PUC

Who benefits from electricity deregulation? from Public Citizen

TXU Energy official site

Austin Energy official site

More stories by Gary Reaves

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Food-labeling effort gains new momentum

By MARY CLARE JALONICK - Associated Press Writer - Sun, Jul. 15, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Shoppers are in the dark about where much of their food comes from despite a five-year-old law requiring meat and other products to carry labels with their country of origin.

That soon may change. Reports of tainted seafood from China have raised consumer awareness about the safety of imported food and many of the law's most powerful opponents have left Congress.

"The political dynamic is such that there's just no getting around it," said Colin Woodall, director of legislative affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. The livestock group has opposed a mandatory labeling program.

The Agriculture Department never put in place the labeling requirement because then-majority Republicans repeatedly delayed it, most recently to 2008.

The law's leading opponents are grocery stores and large meatpacking companies, many of whom mix U.S. and Mexican beef, along with other businesses involved in getting products to supermarket shelves. They say the tracking and the paperwork needed to comply with the law is too burdensome and would cause them to raise prices.

Those interests had influential allies on Capitol Hill - mostly Texas Republicans - before Democrats took over this year.

President Bush, a Texan who has strong ties to the cattle industry, never has liked the labeling law, either. He reluctantly embraced it as a part of the wide-ranging farm bill in 2002 that set agriculture policy.

The labeling requirement, popular with small, independent ranchers who sell their own products, applies to certain cuts of beef, lamb, pork, as well as to peanuts, fruits and vegetables. Processed foods are exempt. So are restaurants and other food service establishments.

The labeling program was not delayed for seafood. The former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, wanted it to promote his state's lucrative fishing industry.

House supporters of the labeling law are working to make sure it goes into effect next year. Their job will be easier because several lawmakers - mostly Texas Republicans concerned about their state's livestock industry - will not be around to block it.

"We had to kick and scream and fight to get this in the farm bill," said Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont. He said supporters are concerned that the Bush administration keeps dragging its feet.

Congress plans hearings this week on whether the Food and Drug Administration can ensure the safety of the nation's food supply. In the wake of increased U.S. complaints about tainted Chinese products, the Chinese government late Friday said it has suspended imports of chicken feet, pig ears and other animal products from seven U.S. companies. Beijing claimed the American meat had contaminants.

The spotlight on federal oversight is adding momentum to a renewed push by consumer groups to put the labeling law in place.

"When consumers hear about all these things in China, their tendency is to avoid things from China," said Chris Waldrop of the Consumer Federation of America. "But they can't because we don't have country of origin labeling, so they are left in the supermarket to their own devices."

The same experts point to several instances of mad cow disease in Canada as evidence of the need for stricter labeling.

But Regina Hildwine, director of food labeling and standards for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, says the labels will be "additional noise" on crowded packaging.

"There's a lot more information on a label that's more important for a consumer to understand, like nutrition facts," she said.

Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., said he will try to beat back language in a spending bill that would establish firm guidelines to begin the labeling in September 2008. LaHood is siding with the meatpacking companies and grocery chains.

"It's going to cause a lot of heartburn," he said.

The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, has said he would be open to writing a new law if all sides could agree. Without a compromise, though, he says he will leave it alone and let it begin in 2008.

Other lawmakers say that is not soon enough and are pushing for the requirement to become effective this year. Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said a must-pass spending bill could be an option to try that.

The law is a priority for lawmakers from the Midwest and northern Rockies, where smaller ranchers face heavy competition from Canada.

"Only by differentiating domestic beef from the rising tide of imported beef can our industry compete," said Bill Bullard, chief executive officer of R-CALF USA, a group that represents smaller independent producers.

Read more

Related Content:
Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Products Association (FPA)

Consumer Federation of America

US Agriculture Country of Origin Labeling

Travel to other worlds ... UTA Planetarium

Immersive full-dome 3-D Digital planetarium show narrated by Ewan McGregor (Obi wan Kepobi from Star Wars) - Astronaut takes you exporing the worlds of inner and outer space. The movie is projected all around you. You recline in specially constructed chairs which enables you to comfortably view the immersive full-dome planetarium show. Astronaut! (produced from the National Space Centre in England) goes beyond the stereotypical space movie. Experience a rocket launch from inside the body of the astronaut. Float around the international Space Station moving thorugh the microscopic regions of the human body! Discover the beauty and perils as "Chad", the test astronaut experiences everything thrown at him.

Summer Schedule (June 2-August 26):


shows at the UTA Planetarium.

Wed. through Saturdays at 11 a.m.
and Thursday at 7:00 p.m.

Cosmic CSI

shows at the UTA Planetarium 3-D Digital Dome.

Wed. through Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Rock Hall of Fame 1 (The Original)

shows at the UTA Planetarium.

Thursday at 8:00 p.m.

Read more (Warning their flat dull website doesn't give much of a glimmer of the multi-dimensional experience you'll have once you enter the dome of the UTA Planetarium!)

Admission: Adults: $5.00

Seniors, Students, Children: $4.00

UTA Faculty, Staff & Alumni (with ID): $3.00

UTA Studens (with ID): $2.00

Groups of 10 or more with reservation: $3.00

Call 817 272-1183 or e-mail planetarium@uta.edu