Railroad Commissioners Barry Smitherman (center), David Porter (left) and Christi Craddick (right) are shown at a Jan. 15, 2013, meeting in Austin. (Tamir Kalifa)

Railroad Commissioners Barry Smitherman (center), David Porter (left) and Christi Craddick (right) are shown at a Jan. 15, 2013, meeting in Austin. (Tamir Kalifa)

Christi Craddick: The Texas Tribune Interview

The Railroad Commission of Texas has a new leader.

The state’s oil and gas regulator, which has three commissioners, elected Christi Craddick, a Republican, as its chairman Tuesday. She replaced Barry Smitherman, who will be leaving the commission after choosing not to run for reelection.

Craddick, an attorney specializing in energy and water issues, was elected to the commission in 2012. A native of Midland, she is the daughter of state Rep. Tom Craddick, a Republican who served as Texas House speaker from 2003 to 2009.

Craddick takes over a commission overseeing a historic surge in oil and gas production. Spurred by technological advances like hydraulic fracturing, Texas has reached production numbers unseen in more than three decades. The commission has also drawn increased scrutiny from those who have raised concerns about the industry’s impact on the environment and public health.

Craddick sat down with the Tribune on Wednesday. She discussed the agency’s dual role as an industry watchdog and champion, efforts to ban fracking in Denton and the commission’s efforts on earthquakes and disposal wells.


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KXWT Presents Mark Russell

Comedian and political satirist Mark Russell will be in concert on Thursday, September 18 at 7 p.m. at the Wagner & Brown Auditorium at Midland College.

Tickets are $60 and are general admission.

You can get tickets by calling 432-580-9130
or Click here to purchase them online.

*All proceeds from this will benefit KXWT 91.3 FM

Rick Perry speaks at the RedState Gathering in Fort Worth, Texas on August, 8, 2014. (Cooper Neill/Texas Tribune)

Rick Perry speaks at the RedState Gathering in Fort Worth, Texas on August, 8, 2014. (Cooper Neill/Texas Tribune)

Analysis: It’s Not the Crime, It’s the Politics

So this is what happens when the fox cuts the food supply of the dog guarding the henhouse.

A Travis County grand jury on Friday indicted Gov. Rick Perry on two felony counts, alleging he abused his power by threatening to veto funding for the state’s Public Integrity Unit unless Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who had pleaded guilty to drunk driving, stepped down.

It appears to those on the governor’s side of the argument that he has the right to cut the funding of agencies run by people who will not quit on his demand.

It appears to those on the prosecutor’s side that his funding veto and the threat that preceded it were an attempt to intimidate and coerce the office that has the job of policing corruption and ethics cases in state government.

The threat is the thing. Had the governor simply cut the funding without saying anything — especially in public, but even in private — this would just be a strange veto. That is not unprecedented.

But Perry did speak out. He decided that Lehmberg’s serving time for a drunk driving arrest, or running a gauntlet of public opprobrium that includes an eternal presence of arrest night video on the internet, was not enough.


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Making Cigar Box Guitars with Matt Isbell

Matt Isbell teaches Cigar Box Guitar Workshop at Bluesfest

Matt Isbell teaches Cigar Box Guitar Workshop at Bluesfest

Tall City Bluesfest marked its fourth year in Midland in late July.  One of the reasons for its longevity are the workshops it offers.  For KXWT News, Lana Straub visited with some young aficionados of the blues.
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Cats, dogs, puppies, and kittens aren't the only ones facing challenges as the oil economy continues to boom and more people move to the Permian Basin. West Texas shelters face not only overcrowding issues, but also potential health issues like distemper as well. (Jocelin Drennan)

Cats, dogs, puppies, and kittens aren't the only ones facing challenges as the oil economy continues to boom and more people move to the Permian Basin. West Texas shelters face not only overcrowding issues, but also potential health issues like distemper as well. (Jocelin Drennan)

Distemper Cases on the Rise in Midland-Odessa Pets

The booming energy industry in the Permian Basin has brought many newcomers to Midland and Odessa, and of course, those people often bring their pets with them.

With that influx of pets there’s been a growing problem with a disease called “distemper.”

It’s a highly contagious disease in cats and dogs that causes intestinal problems, vomiting, anorexia and possibly even death, and it’s been on the rise in Amarillo as well.

Animal shelters are trying to figure out where to house all these sick pets, how to keep the disease from spreading, and where the uptick’s coming from in the first place.

Every year, roughly 7,000 cats and dogs will enter the animal shelter in Midland. However, space is limited and time is ticking for each one of these shelter animals. But these aren’t the only challenges.


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Railroad Commissioners Barry Smitherman (center), David Porter (left) and Christi Craddick (right) are shown at a Jan. 15, 2013, meeting in Austin. (Tamir Kalifa)
KXWT_MarkRussell_WEB
Rick Perry speaks at the RedState Gathering in Fort Worth, Texas on August, 8, 2014. (Cooper Neill/Texas Tribune)
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Lynda Stokes, the mayor of Reno, Texas, testified before the Railroad Commission of Texas on Jan. 21, 2014. She voiced her concern about an increased number of earthquakes around Eagle Mountain Lake. (Marjorie Kamys Cotera)
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KXWT / KRTS Weekly Community Calendar Sponsored by Texas Mountain Trail

Every Friday at 12:04 p.m., catch our broadcast of the best weekly events from the Border to the Basin. This community calendar is sponsored by Texas Mountain Trail. Have an event you’d like to have featured? Email us at info@marfapublicradio.org.

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Lynda Stokes, the mayor of Reno, Texas, testified before the Railroad Commission of Texas on Jan. 21, 2014. She voiced her concern about an increased number of earthquakes around Eagle Mountain Lake. (Marjorie Kamys Cotera)

Railroad Commission Hopefuls Discuss Disposal Well Plan

Two Railroad Commission hopefuls on Wednesday called the agency’s efforts to regulate wastewater disposal wells a good first step in addressing the spate of earthquakes that have shaken up parts of North Texas — a phenomenon that some suspect is linked to local disposal wells. But the candidates said the agency should do more to restore those communities’ faith in its oversight.

The comments came one day after the Railroad Commission offered rules that would require companies to submit additional information – including data on a region’s seismicity and any past earthquakes – when applying for a permit to drill a disposal well. The proposal also clarifies that the commission can slow or halt injections into a problematic well.

The Texas Tribune asked the three candidates vying for an open seat on the commission for their thoughts on the proposal, which is open for public comment through Sept. 29.

Since Nov. 1, more than 30 earthquakes above magnitude 2.0 have struck communities atop the Barnett Shale, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. Some quakes were strong enough to crack home walls and foundations.  The trend has slowed in more recent months. But as a growing body of research links the drilling of disposal wells to earthquakes, those affected — including the mayors of Azle and Reno – have asked state regulators to work more quickly to address the problem, or at least acknowledge it could be tied to the industry.

Commissioners have tiptoed around questions about that link, leading Lynda Stokes, mayor of the quake-shaken town of Reno, to complain her town’s major concerns are “getting lost in politics.”

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American Mustang

American Mustang Ellie Price

Ellie Phipps Price is the executive producer of “American Mustang” and also steward of the wild mustangs. On August 14, the film makers are hoping to show the movie at the Century 12 in Odessa for one night.

In 2009, Ellie adopted 172 mustangs to prevent them from falling into the hands of kill buyers, and has since created a sanctuary for them on 2,000 acres of property in Northern California. It was Ellie’s idea to create a film that would stir action by bringing the state of the American Mustang to the attention of the general public.

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XCOR's Chief Test Pilot Colonel Rick Searfoss shows Governor Rick Perry the prototype for the company's first space craft, known as "Lynx." (Office of the Governor)

Oil Boom? Try Sonic Boom: Private Space Company Set to Break Ground in Midland

This week the governor’s office announced a $2.3 million incentives package for Space X, a private space company looking to build a rocket launch site in Cameron County near Brownsville.

The president of another space company looking to move to Midland says Space X’s South Texas plan is good news for the industry as a whole.

California-based XCOR plans to launch space flights out of the Midland International Airport (MAF.) It’s expected to break ground on a research and development facility there within the next couple of weeks.

XCOR President Andrew Nelson says having other players in the industry in Texas could make life for his company easier.

“Anytime you have a successful company, typically their supply chain will make a decision to re-locate closer,” he says.

A company called Orbital Outfitters is already planning to follow XCOR to Midland to supply it with space suits, and Nelson says if more of what he calls “support companies” follow, the industry will grow faster.

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An oil field in the Permian Basin (Chuck Wilson via Flickr)

For Legacy Oil Family Facing Drought, It’s Conservation or Bust

The latest drought monitor from the USDA shows about 60% of Texas still suffering from a lack of rain and strained water resources.

Lately there’s been some concern brewing in West Texas about towns, cities or landowners selling their water to oil and gas companies, and the possibility of oil and gas development in the Big Bend.

Some landowners argue they’re conscious of how they treat the land, even if they do sell water for drilling, since after all, it’s their land.

In the latest issue of the environmental magazine High Country News, reporter Emily Guerin profiles one legacy oil family in the Permian Basin that’s keeping a close eye on the drought, and realizing in the process that it’s either conservation or bust.

We sat down with Guerin to talk about the Fasken Oil and Ranch Company’s move to stop using fresh water for fracking.

The company’s been around since 1913, when a Toronto-based lawyer named David Fasken bought up land along the Llano Estacado.

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