Wyatt, Cows

With Grasses High & Prices High, Ranchers Face Choices

This year, ranchers in West Texas are looking at greener fields. The grasses are high and so are cattle prices. That sounds like good news, but it can also be a challenge.

It’s a dilemma. The drought forced some ranchers to sell off their cattle. And now the land is productive again But, according to Bruce Carpenter, a livestock specialist from Fort Stockton, it’s not so easy to get back in the game.

“If you got ‘em, that’s great news. If you’re trying to buy them to restock after a drought, that’s kind of tough news. And that’s where a lot of our folks are. Some folks actually completely destocked and have been sitting here waiting on pastures to recover. And that takes awhile.”


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A pipeline staging yard near Fort Stockton, TX (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

A pipeline staging yard near Fort Stockton, TX (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Big Bend Counties Want More Federal Oversight on Trans-Pecos Pipeline

Elected officials in the Big Bend region are getting increasingly involved with a planned pipeline that would bring natural gas from producers in the Permian Basin to Mexican power plants.

Dallas-based Energy Transfer is building the 143-mile, 42″ Trans-Pecos Pipeline. Local activists and ranchers in Presidio and Brewster Counties have been organizing against it for months.

Now, after pressure from those grassroots efforts, the counties are asking the government for stricter federal regulations on the pipeline.

As it stands, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) only has jurisdiction over a small part of the pipeline that will stretch halfway across the U.S.-Mexico border, where it would connect with another line coming from the Mexican side. The Railroad Commission of Texas has authority over the rest.

FERC is currently reviewing a “presidential permit” application for the pipeline – the government approval needed for it to stretch across the border – but both Big Bend counties say they want the government to regulate the pipeline’s entire length.

“We feel that if we’re gonna keep it safe at the end, that it be safe from the hub all the way to where the custody is taken over by Mexico,” said Brewster County Judge Eleazar Cano.

He hopes expanding the fed’s jurisdiction would lead to stricter safety and environmental controls than what the Railroad Commission requires.


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Oil and gas dominate the Texas energy market but wind power generation is growing exponentially. Wind power now provides 10 per cent of  the state's electricity. (Lorne Matalon)

Oil and gas dominate the Texas energy market but wind power generation is growing exponentially. Wind power now provides 10 per cent of the state's electricity. (Lorne Matalon)

Wind Power’s Success In Texas Leads To Subsidy Challenge

AUSTIN, Texas — Energy production in Texas is dominated by oil and gas. But the state also leads the United States in the production of wind power. Some energy analysts suggest that wind power’s success in the Lone Star state has now become its challenge.

State senators recently passed a bill that threatened to repeal a state law that required utilities to source a certain amount of electricity from renewables. For fifteen years, that mandate has paved the way for wind power’s growth in Texas.


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A signed announced the resumption of fracking in Denton last May, after lawmakers passed HB40. (Mose Buchele)

A signed announced the resumption of fracking in Denton last May, after lawmakers passed HB40. (Mose Buchele)

After HB 40, What’s Next for Local Drilling Rules in Texas?

This year state lawmakers severely restricted the ability of Texas towns to regulate local oil and gas drilling.

A law known as House Bill 40 was a reaction to a fracking ban passed by voters in the North Texas city of Denton.

Denton has come to represent local fracking bans and clashes between local governments and the oil and gas industry. But while Denton was the first city in Texas to ban fracking, it wasn’t the first city to ban drilling within city limits.

That practice goes back years, according to a survey by the Texas Municipal League.

The Texas Municipal League’s survey shows that about 30 Texas towns have more general bans on drilling.

Bastrop City Manager Mike Talbot says some of those date back decades. Bastrop’s has been on the books since 2007.

“It’s just not something you want in a residential neighborhood,” he says. “They’re bringing those big rigs in, and it could [be] dangerous or cause a problem, so that’s why a lot of cities have that ordinance.”

Before the Denton controversy, no one seemed to notice these local bans. But HB 40 appears to render them unenforceable.


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From Across Texas, Boxers Rally for the Inaugural “West Texas Fight Night”

When he’s in the ring Abel Mendoza wears bright pink shorts. The Fort Stockton native just graduated high school and is trying to make a splash in the boxing world. But to do that you have to find high-profile fights. And in West Texas those are hard to come by.

What did Mendoza do? He organized one himself.

The event took place on a Saturday night at the Pecos Coliseum in Fort Stockton. More than 500 boxing fans drank beer they brought with them and watched from aluminum chairs.

“Look out for rattlesnakes” signs were posted around the venue, and if it wasn’t for the boxing ring in the center of the arena, you’d think you were about to watch a rodeo.

Mendoza is only 18 years old, but his commitment to his sport rivals the pros.

“I never imagined myself doing anything else. I’ve done boxing all my life. It’s all I know. This is what I want to do and I want to try to make the USA team,” Mendoza said.


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Lucy and Clay Furlong, West Texas ranchers and the owner of this old mercantile story in Kent, TX., are gearing up to fight a proposed nuclear waste site in Culberson County. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Lucy and Clay Furlong, West Texas ranchers and the owner of this old mercantile story in Kent, TX., are gearing up to fight a proposed nuclear waste site in Culberson County. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

After a Few Failed Attempts, A New Pitch for Nuclear Waste in West Texas

West Texas has had a long and often contentious relationship with nuclear waste, stretching back to a years-long battle over a planned permanent waste site in the 1980’s and 90’s.

Opponents eventually won that fight, but a different site was later built in the Permian Basin.

Some now see West Texas as the ideal place to store higher-level waste from the nation’s nuclear power plants, since those plants are running out of room to do it themselves.

Ranchers don’t like the idea, and they’re already gearing up for a fight.

Bill Jones is a Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner. He’s also co-owner of the Austin-based company AFCI, Texas. In that role, he wants to bring used nuclear fuel from those power plants to an above-ground storage site in rural Culberson County.

But he’s been trying to do that for seven years. Even with supporters as powerful as former governor Rick Perry backing the idea of bringing nuclear waste to Texas, it’s still been a hard sell.

Four other West Texas counties have already told him, “no thanks.”

“It’s fair to say that we did not bring along the landowners with the process, as we have with this county,” Jones said at a recent community meeting in Van Horn.


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(Graham Dickie/KRTS)

(Graham Dickie/KRTS)

War Stories Through the Eyes of West Texans

At the Casner Room in Marfa City Hall, Angelo State University professors Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai and Christine Lamberson usher veterans into adjoining rooms for audio interviews. They set their mementos onto a small white sheet for photo documentation, and have them fill out paper work so all the material they gathered can be used for an online database.

The aim is to work towards making war history from the recent past into something personal for West Texans here as part of a much larger project called “War Stories.”

“This is the stuff of which history books are made,” said Wongsrichanalai, who’s co-directing the project with Lamberson.


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Become a Community Correspondent, learn new skills and make new friends.

Become a Community Correspondent, learn new skills and make new friends.

Become a Marfa Public Radio Community Correspondent

Never miss a city council meeting? Always finding interesting stories in the Big Bend? Go to a lot of community events or concerts? If you’re interested in sharing your knowledge and experience with Marfa Public Radio listeners, become one of our volunteer Community Correspondents.

We’re looking for engaged citizens from across the Big Bend. A Community Correspondent assists Marfa Public Radio with news gathering and producing stories from the community you live in.
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Don Warren at Marfa Public Radio before his performances at a Fourth of July festival in Fort Davis (Graham Dickie/KRTS)

Fri. Jul 3 Interview: Don Warren, the Cowboy Hypnotist

Long-time traveling entertainer Don Warren brings his cowboy hypnotist act to Fort Davis this weekend for the 4th of July Festival.

In his appearance on West Texas Talk, Warren speaks about the evolution of his act, how he became a hypnotist, other hypnotists who inspired him, and how the hypnotism field is changed today.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Marfa Summer School Instructors, Stephan Pascher, Theo Tegelaers, and Krist Gruijthuijsen

Thu. Jul 2 Interview: The Third-Annual TAAK Summer School Marfa

Once again, we talk to the instructors for the Marfa Summer School program hosted by Building 98.

Today, we sit down with Theo Tegelaers, Krist Gruijthuijsen and Stephan Pascher to talk about this year’s student group, which includes artists from Cooper Union in New York City, as well as the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Dan Hale at Texas A&M teaching a version of the Beef 706 course he brought to Sul Ross earlier this week (Agrilife Today via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Wed. Jul 1 Interview: Meat Specialist Dan Hale on Optimistic Ranchers and Industry Safety

A Texas A&M professor for 30 years and longtime meat specialist, Dan Hale recently came into the heart of ranch land to teach a group of 20 Far West Texas cattle producers about the other sides of the beef industry.

Held at Sul Ross University, the two-day course was free and part of A&M’s Agrilife Extension program. Marfa Public Radio had a West Texas Talk with Hale in Alpine’s Kokernot Lodge between the sessions, touching on the state of the cow herd here, health concerns, and innovations in ranching.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Tom Michael, Zara Meerza, Natasha Jatania, and Anna Reinelt at MPR Studios (Ryan Lentini/KRTS)

Tue. Jun 30 Interview: British Filmmakers Craft Marfa Documentary Using New Technology

Today on West Texas Talk, Tom Michael sits down with three British filmmakers, Zara Meerza, Natasha Jatania, and Anna Reinelt, to talk about their month long documentary shoot in Marfa. The trio have interviewed over 40 community members in order to create a wide portrait of Marfa for European audiences.

Part of the pitch of the film, which is expected to be shown in festivals this year, is the use of a  technology called, Google Cardboard. They have conceived of the possibility of having a virtual tour of Marfa using the immersive new invention.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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The Brewster County Courthouse in Alpine

In West Texas, Some Counties Are Issuing Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples, Others Are Not

This post has been updated.

With Friday’s Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, some county clerk offices in Texas, including those in Travis, Bexar, and Dallas counties, began issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples immediately. But in West Texas, most county clerks were not. They were waiting further instruction from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

On Sunday, Paxton’s office issued a non-binding statement that county clerks may opt-out of providing these licenses. In this opinion, he warned counties, though, that they should be prepared to face fines or legal challenges. 

The West Texas counties of Hale, El Paso, and Midland announced on Friday they would issue same-sex marriage licenses in accordance with the Supreme Court’s ruling. Others though, like officials in Ector County, reversed their decision between Friday and Monday, announcing they would update their forms and begin issuing the licenses.

It was a similar story in Brewster County and Presidio County, with officials on Monday saying they would abide by the federal ruling. The Big Bend Gazette reported Monday that Jeff Davis County will also comply with the ruling.

Several West Texas county clerks were unavailable for further comment.

We continue to track the changing landscape of West Texas counties on this issue. A county-by-county decision map from The Dallas Morning News is being updated throughout the week.

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