Midland County Courthouse (KXWT File Photo)

Midland County Courthouse (KXWT File Photo)

MRT: Veterans Parade Train Wreck Trial Dismissed

The jury trial over the deadly veterans parade train wreck in Midland from 2012 kicked off this week, but according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram, the trial is already over after having just begun.

Plaintiffs in the case – family members of those killed in the accident – were attempting to argue that Union Pacific Railroad was negligent in maintaining warning signals where the crash occurred.

Union Pacific has maintained it followed all required federal regulations at the crossing.

Friday morning we spoke with MRT Reporter Joe Basco, who was covering the trial at the Midland County Courthouse this week.

Basic tells KXWT that after a closed-door meeting, Judge James Rush has advised both parties in the case that the trial will be dismissed when official documents can be filed. Judge Rush has also reportedly instructed attorneys in the case to keep the details behind that decision private.

A contract crew drills an oil well for Elevation Resources in Andrews County, north of Odessa. (Travis Bubenik / KXWT)

A contract crew drills an oil well for Elevation Resources in Andrews County, north of Odessa. (Travis Bubenik / KXWT)

Midland-Odessa Stays Positive, but Oil Price Drop Won’t Be Easy

The falling price of oil is great news for consumers who are saving at the gas pumps, but in the center of the nation’s highest-producing oil field, cheaper gas means the economy’s hurting.

Drilling is already slowing down, and people in Midland-Odessa are turning to their backup plans.

Oil companies in the Permian Basin and across Texas are scaling back, but that doesn’t mean they’re giving up.

A smaller, local company called Elevation Resources is drilling a new well near Odessa, but at the same time the company’s president Steve Pruett is re-thinking strategy.

“We were already taking our foot off the accelerator early in the fall,” he says.

Pruett says his company and the industry weren’t surprised by prices dropping to $70 a barrel, but the drop below $50 caught pretty much everyone off guard.

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(KXWT File Photo)

(KXWT File Photo)

End of the Road for the Tumbleweed?

You’re driving on the interstate on a windy West Texas day and all of a sudden out of the corner of your eye, you see something barreling across the road.  Before you can react, it hits your car.  You’ve just met the tumbling tumbleweed.

It’s an iconic image, and some believe tumbleweeds originated in the West, but they didn’t. They’re actually invaders from Russia, and are called Russian Thistle.

It’s considered a pest by farmers and landowners. According to Midland Naturalist Burr Williams, tumbleweeds are a plant that only grows where the soil is disturbed one way or the other.

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House Leaders Postpone Contentious Border Bill Vote Indefinitely

House leaders in Congress have postponed indefinitely a vote on a border security bill, known as the “Secure Our Borders First Act.”

The bill would penalize the Department of Homeland Security if it fails to stop all illegal border crossings within five years.

The postponement comes as Congress faces a February 27th deadline to fund DHS.

The border bill is sponsored by newly-named Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul.

He’s a Texas Republican who calls the bill the “strongest border security bill” ever.

But Democrats, some conservative Republicans and union that represents U.S. Border Patrol agents disagree.

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Johnny Herrera is a dispatcher for Tex Con Oil. A company that distributes fuel around the Austin area. (Mose Buchele)

Johnny Herrera is a dispatcher for Tex Con Oil. A company that distributes fuel around the Austin area. (Mose Buchele)

From Pipeline to Pump, How Gasoline Gets to Your Car

By now, the initial surprise over low gas prices has worn off. But people looking for the very best deals might have noticed a trend: small, unbranded gas stations are often the first to cut prices.

Many of them continue to stay competitive even when larger brand-name stations cut their prices as well.

To understand why stations offer different prices for essentially the same product, it helps to take a trip from the pump back to the pipeline, to see exactly how gas is bought, sold and transported.

The Pump

“It’s definitely savings,” said Doug Warden as he filled up his car at Pronto Food Mart recently, “like I just got a bonus!”

Pronto is a tiny neighborhood gas station that was one of the first places in Austin to slash prices. It still offers the cheapest gas in Central Austin according to websites that track prices.

That’s no surprise. The shopkeepers there pride themselves on being on the front lines of the war against high gas prices.

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Midland County Courthouse (KXWT File Photo)
Dr. Stephen Odewahn
A contract crew drills an oil well for Elevation Resources in Andrews County, north of Odessa. (Travis Bubenik / KXWT)
McKittrick Canyon in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. (Flickr/ Clinton Steeds)
Bison grazing on a shortgrass prairie ( Justin Meissen / flickr)
Dr. Stephen Odewahn

KXWT Astronomy Series: Stephen Odewahn on Galaxy Morphology and Classification

KXWT’s Astronomy Series features a conversation with an astronomer from the McDonald Observatory. On this episode, Ian Lewis speaks with Dr. Stephen Odewahn at the Otto Struve telescope at the McDonald Observatory.

Odewahn is a research scientist and resident astronomer at the McDonald Observatory. He studies galaxy morphology, the forms of galaxies, and how different types of galaxies evolve. Odewahn works on computer systems that classify thousands of images of galaxies, creating a large library of galaxies that provides astronomers with information about the way that galaxies have formed and evolved.

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Testimony Starts At Midland Trial: Veterans Suing Over Deadly 2012 Accident

Union Pacific railway and military veterans involved in the deadly collision of a freight train with a parade float in 2012 are now facing off in a Midland court room.

On day one of testimony (Wednesday 28 Jan 2015) the court heard about the service the four veterans who were killed gave to their country.

They’re Marine Gary Stouffer, Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers, retired Army Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin and Army Sgt. Joshua Michael.

Michael earned two two Purple Hearts in Iraq. He threw his wife off a float as it was struck. Veterans and some relatives are suing the railway alleging it was negligent in operating the railroad crossing where its train hit a float.

There originally were 43 plaintiffs but eight families reached a pre-trial settlement with the railroad.

Lawyers for the remaining 17 plaintiffs say Union Pacific had short warning signal times at the crossing and did not properly maintain it. The National Transportation Safety Board says crossing signals were working at the time. The railway believes other parties, the city, law enforcement

NTSB says the likely cause was the failure of the city and parade organizers to identify the risk of crossing the tracks.

The trial’s expected to last 6 weeks.

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The entryway to Guadalupe Mountains National Park (jb10okie // Flickr)

Artist Residencies at Guadalupe Mountains National Park

On this week’s episode, Nature Notes shines a spotlight on a collaborative artist-in-residence program taking place at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We explore how the recently-established program speaks to the special connection that artists have always had with America’s National Park System.

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:35 am and 4:45 pm, and again on Thursdays at 7:06 pm.
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A U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in New Mexico. (Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr. CC BY-SA)

Man Killed by Border Patrol after Fleeing Sierra Blanca Checkpoint

On Thursday, Border Patrol agents shot and killed a man who authorities say failed to stop for inspection at a Sierra Blanca checkpoint east of El Paso, and then fled east for 30 miles on I-10.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said Friday the man had pulled into the Border Patrol’s checkpoint line in Hudspeth County around 4:45 p.m Thursday, but failed to stop for inspection and quickly fled.

According to a statement from CBP, Border Patrol agents followed the vehicle for 30 miles until it stopped.

“According to initial reports, as four agents approached the vehicle, an agent yelled, ‘gun!'” the statement reads. “Two agents fired their service-issued weapons, striking the individual.”

The man was later pronounced dead by a Justice of the Peace dispatched to the scene. None of the Border Patrol agents were injured.

CBP says a “pistol-shaped pellet gun” was found in the man’s vehicle.

The agency has so far not released the identities of the man killed or the agents involved.

Details about the weapon being spotted – such as whether the man was holding the weapon when fired upon, or whether agents observed it somewhere in the vehicle – have also not been released.

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The Clarinet Considered: Next Concert from MOSC

The Midland Odessa Symphony Chorale continues its season on Saturday at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center. In addition to works by Johann and Richard  Strauss, there’s a new piece that features the clarinet.

Chris Chance is standing next to a fireplace in a Midland home, with his clarinet in hand. He’s the featured performer on Saturday night. He’ll be playing a piece called Clarinet Concerto No. 2 by a contemporary composer, Oscar Navarro. This will be Chance’s first solo professional performance with the symphony.

Click the link above to listen to the podcast.

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