Archive for March, 2015
There is a story yet to be told in this legislative session about the "water front". The Republican establishment has too much control, appearing set to undo the rights of communities to control their water. (This is why we like electoral competition.)
The only thing standing in the way of a state takeover of our aquifers (groundwater) are the groundwater conservation districts (GCDs).
The House Natural Resources Committee leadership had some of the key CGD leaders there last Wednesday -- until 1 am telling them "you have nothing to fear" while bopping them on the head with bills specifically designed to erode their control. Rep. Tracy King (D-Eagle Pass) rightly pointed out that there's no point in the GCDs if this happens.
There are many more anti-local water control bills a comin'. Some of them are up this Wednesday (tomorrow). House Bill 3597 guts 9 factors the GCDs can currently use to scrutinize export water permits.
Over 100 years ago, the state of California allowed private interests to do massive transfers of water to a desert, aka Los Angeles. Today, California is in a deep, deep water crisis with 1 year of water stored!
We already see the California Model beginning with the Vista Rige Project, a pet project of Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio). Larson serves as the cheer leader on this committee, for fueling new developments in dry areas of the state -- starting with the sensitive Hill Country.
The Chair, Jim Keffer (R-Granbury), has, for whatever reason, decided to hold the killer bills until the very end of the hearings into the wee hours. We hope you can join us there -- but at the very least...
Do this please.
Start by reading our new Water Principles and Water Talking Points then...do these:
- Call the Natural Resources Committee office at 512-463-0802, then call your state rep and senator. Find your legislator here. Tell them you oppose any bills that diminish groundwater districts powers and that aid in transport of groundwater to areas for new developments without their own water supply, especially HB 3597. If you want to contact all the NRC members individually, they're at the bottom of this webpage.
- Join us at the Capitol any Wednesday. Meet in the Capitol Grill tomorrow at noon (1st floor of the underground extention, Rm. E1.002) OR later attend the Natural Resources Committee Hearing in Rm. E2.010, agenda here. Though this hearing is scheduled to start at 2 pm, you can come late -- feel free to stay in touch via email or text at 512-657-2089. Look for a "Stop the Water Grab Sign".
- Become a member of the League of Independent Voters of Texas -- your dues fuel our efforts. Let us know if you want to see a chapter in your community.
Let's do this, y'all for our kids and those behind them. Texas, our Texas, is depending on us.
Join our conference call tomorrow at 9 am before you have to hide your water, your wives and your children. Seriously...contact us for details.
Sometimes even those with perhaps a little too much power unwittingly expose themselves in the wee hours of the morning. We were there Wednesday night, until 1:15 am, at the House Natural Resources Committee hearing.
Representatives Jim Keffer (R-Granbury), Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) and Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) led the charge. Vice-Chair Ashby found it necessary to interogate Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Hays & Blanco counties), and even tried (unsuccessfully) to cross-examine a Hays County citizen like a witness on the witness stand. (More below.)
Watch my testimony and you'll see why I was simply ignored...then keep reading.
The unmasking escalated about 11 pm, with House Bill 200 -- Chairman Keffer's bill. That's when Lyle Larson used anti-lawyer remarks against a respected attorney who represents groundwater districts. This provided cover for lawyers in the room representing water marketers who went unchallenged. We left when -- for about the 4th time -- Chairman Keffer called the Groundwater Conservation Districts, "Groundwater Municipal Districts." Was that a Freudian slip? Or is HB 200 going to be the ambush we've all been dreading? Watch for an update at the top of our water bills webpage here, as the battle lines are getting drawn. Stand ready to volunteer -- we'll explain on tomorrow's call.
Some other things we'll touch on tomorrow:
- Yesterday, Caldwell County citizens had a successful first hearing on the dump.
- San Antonians keep fighting to stop the Vista Ridge...but just how will they go at it?
- What about good water bills, including Rep. Cyrier's HB 3163 and Rep. Simpson's HB 632?
- Quick updates on attacks on home rule and eminent domain reform bills.
The most important thing you can do is to volunteer from home...though..we may really need you on Wednesday at 2 pm (keep in touch on the time)
in the Natural Resources Committee.
Civilizations disappeared when water ran out.
The following article appeared in the Giddings Times & News, March 18, 2016
County in Crosshairs as Water Wars Heat Up
“Anyplace that allows one person to waste their non-renewable resource so he can make a buck cannot last. Natural punishes stupidity.” So said a New York Times reader who commented on a recent article by Wimberley resident and author, Richard Parker.
Parker wrote from the viewpoint of ancient civilizations that disappeared when population outstripped water supply.
His topic was Houston-based Electro Purification LLC’s plan to pump five million gallons of groundwater a day---about 1.9 billion gallons per year-- from the Trinity Aquifer under Hays County.
Hays Co. citizens are outraged by well plan
Hays County government and many citizens are outraged by the plan to sink deep water wells in the “no man’s land” where the Trinity Aquifer runs under the Edwards Aquifer. That part of the Trinity is unregulated by two groundwater districts and one aquifer authority that have jurisdiction in Hays County.
Electro Purification’s customers for the water are local, but many landowners believe that amount of pumping spells disaster for their aquifer, their wells, and their beloved artesian spring, Jacob’s Well.
Deep-pocket opposition is threatening litigation, and State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) is scrambling to pass legislation to stop, or at least cripple, the project.
The irony of Hays County’s reaction to EP is not lost on Lee and Bastrop counties. The Hays County connection to an ongoing lawsuit by Forestar Real Estate Group against our Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District and its board members is well-known.
Forestar alleges millions of dollars in damages caused by Lost Pines, despite being given a permit to export 4 billion gallons of water per year from the Simsboro under Lee County. Some estimates say that’s enough to serve about 43,000 households. But Forestar is demanding a permit for 15 billion gallons per year to export to none other than Hays County. (The Simsboro is a formation of the vast Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer.)
Citizens from our counties formally asked Hays County Judge Bert Cobb and his Commissioners’ Court two years ago to respect Lost Pines’ decision to reduce Forestar’s permit. They responded by unanimously voting to sign the Forestar contract for the full 15 billion gallons. Now that same Commissioners’ Court is outraged by EP’s much smaller project for 1.9 billion gallons.
Parker’s article described one commissioner publicly shaking his finger at EP executives and saying “We don’t want you here”. Apparently, the welcome mat is still out for Forestar and Lee County’s water.
Growth and population demands on the Simsboro became the paramount issue in last month’s House District 17 election.
Candidate Linda Curtis, a political independent and water activist, triggered a runoff with the locally popular slogan, “Stop the Water Grab”.
Brent Golemon, the underdog Republican, carried both Lee and Bastrop counties in the runoff with support from Curtis and his promise to defend our water supply.
Rep. Cyrier files bills to protect water here
Newly elected State Rep. John Cyrier (R-Lockhart) quickly stepped up to the “water plate” last week by filing bills designed to both protect and help groundwater districts as they navigate the complexities of Texas water law and policy.
In the midst of that election and the EP fight, a Simsboro project in Lee and Bastrop counties for yet another 15 billion gallons per year emerged into the spotlight of controversy.
‘Recharge’ hires new team to grab water
Water marketer End Op L.P. has been reincarnated, with a new name (“Recharge”), new high-dollar investors, and a new team.
The team now includes Joe Beal, a former LCRA executive and current Bastrop City Council member, who ignited a firestorm last month in Bastrop County by appearing before the Austin City Council.
He urged Austin to move quickly to buy the “abundant supply” of water under Lee and Bastrop counties, which he assured could be purchased “pretty cheaply.”
Bastrop citizens show outrage on councilman
Local citizens and some of his colleagues on the Bastrop council were outraged that he introduced himself in Austin as a Bastrop councilman but failed to mention he also works for Recharge.
His connection to Recharge as a manager is confirmed by the Recharge website, and Beal testified for End Op as an expert last November in a hearing on End Op’s permit application to Lost Pines.End Op/Recharge has been pursuing a Lost Pines permit for years, despite having no firm customer for anywhere near 15 billion gallons.
However, Beal and another Recharge employee's testimony also claimed that Recharge’s potential customers now include LCRA, Austin, Cedar Park, Leander, and Round Rock, possibly through a primary deal with LCRA for resale to the others. LCRA is itself expected to apply to Lost Pines for a permit to pump over 3 billion gallons per year from under Bastrop County property owned by the Boy Scouts.
Aquifer targeted for urban development
Local water supply companies, along with some cities and landowners, already pump Simsboro water in Lee, Bastrop, Milam and Burleson counties.
The aquifer has also been targeted for distant urban development by water marketers Forestar, End Op, LCRA, Manville Water Supply, Blue Water Systems and even Alcoa over the last fifteen years. As a result, the total annual pumping projected for the Simsboro in all four counties is at least 90 billion gallons (275,000 acre-feet) over the next 10-plus years.
In contrast, Lost Pines estimates the total annual recharge of the larger Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer is only 2.4 billion gallons and 9.1 billion gallons in Lee and Bastrop counties. Clearly, that much pumping will result in mining the aquifer’s ancient stored water.
“No one disputes our local landowners’ right to sell their water, subject to groundwater district regulation of production,” says Lee County resident and ‘water grab’ critic Michele Gangnes.
“This ‘Gold Rush for Water’ simply reminds us that Lee and Bastrop counties are squarely in the cross-hairs of outside water speculators, investors, developers and other special interests. Hays County’s legitimate outcry for local aquifer protection while it waits to exploit Lee County’s aquifer, and Beal’s chicanery closer to home, remind us of the necessity of vigilance against losing our state’s non-renewable resources to those who want to make a buck. Otherwise, we might become the “anyplace” described in the comment to Parker’s New York Times article – or even one of those vanished civilizations,” said Ms. Gangnes. (Go to http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/13/opinion/the-southwestern-water-wars.html)
Our 9 am conference call this Saturday will focus on Texas Election Reform and led by Tom
Glass. Reply for the conference call details.
We hope to see you this coming Monday, in Austin, in Cedar Creek on Wednesday and in Lockhart on Thursday...all detailed below.
Use these new pages on our site to do what you can from home in this legislative session -- keep checkin' back as it's about to get VERY busy with hearings:
- Did you know that 92 bills have been filed on groundwater? Use our new page on Water Bills -- do the action requests!
- Eminent Domain -- Sen. Lois Kolkhorst's SB 474 can use your push to get it out of the State Affairs Committee.
- You gotta watch Tom Glass' testimony on our behalf last Monday, on our new Election Reform page. Glass puts both party leaders -- and their party machines -- to shame defending straight party ticket voting!
- Our main page for this legislative session -- 2015 Lege Session -- reviews our participation in a number of legislative coalitions and goals for this session. It includes things you can do, online or by phone, to help defend our water, local control, local foods and more.
Meet us in Austin this Monday for these statewide events!
Come to these local events!
Bastrop/Lee County Update:
The Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District, after months of due deliberation, made a decision to appoint Clifton Seidel to the seat vacated by Ken Daughtry -- who is missed! Mr. Seidel was born and raised in Bastrop County, is a landowner and has a committment to local control of groundwater. Though we regret that our highly qualified friend, Phil Cook, did not receive this appointment, we wish Mr. Seidel all the best. (Photo: l to r, Karen Seidel, wife, Clifton Seidel, Sharlotte Seidel, sister, Elaine Seidel, mother and former Bastrop County Commissioner, and Sharon Foerster, sister. Mr. Seidel owns property in Rosanky and lives in Tahitian Village.)
NOTICE!: Please join our "Good Bills, Bad Bills" Statewide Conference Call this Saturday, 3:30-4:30 pm. We will not be streaming this event. Call or email us for details at 512-213-4511 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's the deal on the 2015 legislative session. It's all about local control; instead of control by the King and Queen lobbies -- real estate and oil and gas.
Last fall, Denton voters passed a "frack ban" on future drilling within the city limits. It was a perfectly reasonable ordinance for a densely populated city, but the oil and gas industry had a tizzy. No one stands up to those guys -- except citizens. Now, there are concerted attacks going on in the legislature to curtail the citizens petition process AND the right of cities to even pass local ordinances. (Go here for more.)
Growing cronyism and corruption of state agencies is forcing a showdown -- sooner or later. The Governor and legislators are making lots of promises. We shall see.
The good news it that we just might see what the convergence of both political parties allows even those well-intentioned legislators, in either party, to deliver.
For us at the League, our case is being made for us. There are likely over 5 million Texas independents. Many of them are young folks who refuse to jump into the swamp of two-in-one party Texas politics. We don't blame them; we seek to provide them another option.
Invite us to your community. The legislative session gives us a great excuse to get folks together.
Check out these updates and take action!
Yesterday, the newly elected State Rep. John Cyrier (HD-17), introduced House Bill 3163 at our request! HB 3163 would protect groundwater district board members from harassment lawsuits against them as individuals -- like the one pending against members of the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District by Forestar Real Estate Group. Please take a moment to send Rep. Cyrier an email to thank him.
On Monday, March 9, several League leaders and friends spoke at a hearing of the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee on Sen. Lois Kolkhorst's Senate Bill 474. This terrific bill will help level the playing field on eminent domain by awarding attorney's fees for those landowners who industry gives low ball offers to, hoping the landowner will not have the resources to go to court. Use this page to contact the Senate State Affairs Committee and to thank Lois now!
We hope you will participate with us in these important events!
* Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance Local Foods Day at the Capitol TOMORROW -- Friday. Details here.
* AGAIN, don't miss this Saturday, March 14, 3:30-4:30 pm LEAGUE CONFERENCE CALL on "Good Bills, Bad Bills". This event WILL NOT BE TELEVISED. Check our events section for meetings in your area or ask us to host one.
* Terri Hall and Texas TURF are calling out the grassroots for the Toll Free Texas Day at the Capitol on Monday, March 23rd. This is quite an extravaganza involving legislators and even the new Governor. Register here now!
Join us tomorrow at 9 am for a statewide conference call. Reply for details if you don't already have the conference number.
Topic: What Comes First, the Cart or the Horse -- building local chapters of the League of Independent Voters of Texas.
We'll also discuss this hearing on Monday at the Capitol on an important eminent domain reform bill. Read this blog piece by Calvin Tillman on Senate Bill 474. (Note: Please call the Committee Members to express your support, especially Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, the sponsor of the bill.)
Don't forget to mark your calendar for next Saturday's (March 14, 3 to 5 pm) "Good Bills, Bad Bills" event held in Bastrop (Neighbor's Restaurant, 601 Chestnut) and STREAMED online from 3:30 to 4:30. Details here.
Our credibility is based on numbers and roots across the state. Our point is you can't get there without the voters in front of the legislature -- not the other way around.
League of Independent Voters of Texas
PO Box 651 * Bastrop, TX 78602
512-213-4511* 512-535-0989 home office * 512-657-2089 cell
PS If you want to build a League Chapter, reply and we'll send you our by-laws.
Did you know that Bastrop has its very own City Councilman/Water Marketer who has a hard time distinguishing between the two? Love this Sunday Statesman article!
Hays County: This press release by the newly formed Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association, a non-profit created to "protect the Edwards and Trinity Aquifers and Springs" in Hays County, hit the news wires recently!
Mark your calendars -- we hope to see you in person or on OUR FIRST LIVE STREAMING EVENT on March 14th!:
This Wednesday, 9 am, at the Bastrop County Courthouse, is a very important hearing in Bastrop District Court on water profiteer, End Op, LP's attempt to prevent landowners in Lee and Bastrop counties from having a voice. Remember, End Op wants a mega-permit for 46,000 acre-feet/year of groundwater from the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District. Show up! Details here from the always helpful Environmental Stewardship.
This Saturday, March 7, 9 am, the League's Conference Call: We will discuss establishing chapters of the League of Independent Voters. Reply for conference call details and a set of our by-laws.
Friday, March 13, Local Foods Day by the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance at the Capitol -- details here.
Saturday, March 14, 3 to 5 pm -- "Good Bills, Bad Bills", via stream or join us in person at Neighbor's Restaurant, 601 Chestnut, Bastrop, TX. You can join us (bring some money for food and drink), or join the stream from 3:30 to 4:30 pm -- reply for details or click here.