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Governor requests disaster declaration

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CAPITAL HIGHLIGHTS

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Jan. 13 asked for a presidential disaster declaration for three counties that sustained widespread damage attributed to severe thunderstorms, straight-line winds, hail and tornadoes.

The stormy weather on Oct. 20-21 hit Cameron, Dallas and Erath counties. Abbott’s request includes public assistance and hazard mitigation.

“The State of Texas is committed to ensuring the people of Cameron, Dallas and Erath counties have the resources they need to continue rebuilding the public infrastructure,” Abbott said. “With the help of our federal partners, these communities can rebuild quickly and gain access to important recovery resources. I ask that the president swiftly grant this request in order to expedite valuable support to these counties.”

If Abbott’s request is granted, local jurisdictions will be eligible for federal reimbursement for the cost of disaster-related debris removal, emergency measures to protect life and property and permanent repair work to damaged or destroyed infrastructure such as roads, bridges, water treatment facilities, parks and publicly owned property.

PROCLAMATION EXTENDED

Gov. Abbott on Jan. 14 extended the disaster proclamation he originally signed on Aug. 23, 2017, and amended several times thereafter, pertaining to 60 counties affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Texas law authorizes the use of all available resources of state government and of political subdivisions that are reasonably necessary to cope with the disaster.

MILLER HAILS TRADE DEAL

When President Donald Trump signed the “Phase One” trade agreement with China on Jan. 15, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller called it “huge, Texas-sized news.”

The agreement calls for China to increase its purchase of U.S.-produced goods by $200 billion, including the import of agricultural products by $40 billion to $50 billion over the next two years.

U.S. negotiators agreed to cut tariffs in half on goods from China, from 15 percent down to 7.5 percent.

GOAL: DONOR PROTECTION

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Jan. 14 joined the attorneys general of 23 states in an agreement with Pay-Pal Charitable Fund Inc., the charitable arm of PayPal.

In the agreement, the states seek to ensure donors are given clear information and disclosures on where their money goes when making charitable contributions through the company’s online payment platform.

Previously, the platform aggregated and distributed funds to the donors’ chosen charities without collecting fees; however, charities that maintained a PayPal account received contributions more quickly than others.

That fact was not disclosed to donors, nor was the fact that sometimes contributions were redirected away from the donor’s selected charity and given to a different organization with similar purposes.

“Texans are generous people who selflessly give to countless charities and causes. They deserve to know exactly where their contributions go and how they are handled,” Paxton said. “The agreement reached today marks a recognition of the responsibilities charitable funds have to donors, and we are grateful for the new PayPal Charitable Fund provisions that will better inform all who choose to give to charity through the online platform.”

AGENCY SET RECORD AGAIN

During calendar year 2019 the Texas Railroad Commission processed a record 11,654 new drilling permits.

The Lone Star State’s oil and gas industry regulating agency announced its staff also set a record in taking just two days on average to process standard drilling permits, one day below the Legislative requirement.

Also, according to a Jan. 13 news release, the agency processed permits at this faster-than-required rate for two years in a row, beginning in calendar year 2018.

“The Railroad Commission’s technological solutions enable operators to quickly apply for and receive drilling permits,” said Wei Wang, executive director of the agency.

“Nearly 99 percent of operators apply for drilling permits online. This allows our staff to thoroughly and quickly review each application to ensure operators meet all drilling permit requirements.”

Texas leads the nation in oil and gas production, with the Permian Basin in West Texas ranking as the nation’s top energy production region. In the last 12 months Texas operators reported 1.438 billion barrels of oil produced and almost 10 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Permian Basin contains 66 billion barrels of oil, nearly 300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 21 billion barrels of natural gas liquids in the Midland and Delaware Basins.

“Texas will continue to be the nation’s leader in energy production,” Wang said.

“The Railroad Commission’s efficient, timely permit review processes are essential to the continued development of the state’s energy resources and ultimately support Texas’ economic prosperity,”Wang said.