AUSTIN — Tar balls washed up on Crystal Beach on Bolivar peninsula north of Galveston on or about July 4. The U.S. Coast Guard soon after confirmed the presence of five gallons of the stuff.
On July 5, the Texas General Land Office confirmed those tarballs came from BP’s Deepwater Horizon well. This prompted Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to ask BP for $25 million to fund the state’s clean-up efforts.
Abbott said Texas businesses, fishermen and coastal residents economically harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill should contact (800) 440-0858 to make a claim. And, he said, Texas state and local governments that have incurred costs because of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill clean-up and response effort should contact (302) 476-7732 to make a claim.
So, now, it’s been three months since news hit of the drill platform’s collapse and leaking wellhead, about a mile beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and south of Louisiana. Since then, Abbott has been working with the attorneys general of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida on legal issues emerging as a result of the spill.
Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Perry on July 6 proposed a “Gulf Project” to deal with the growing environmental disaster caused the BP-Deepwater Horizon spill and develop safer ways to conduct future deep-water oil exploration. Perry called for a multi-state, multi-institution race-to-the-moon type response.
Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson on July 8 said the response to remove those tarballs found on Bolivar Peninsula won’t affect the state’s $20 million fund set aside for oil spill cleanups, because BP is going to pay for it.
Patterson said the state fund, which comes from a 1.3 cent per barrel fee assessed on oil passing through Texas ports, pays for skimmers, air boats and oil boom at five offices along the Texas coast. Those offices are staffed by General Land Office oil spill experts who work with other agencies in response to any oil spill in Texas.
One such agency, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, on July 8 reported its biologists are sampling the Texas coastline for evidence of Deepwater Horizon spill impacts.
Perry, White stump in San Marcos
Incumbent Republican Gov. Perry and Democratic challenger Bill White were both in San Marcos on July 8 to speak at the Texas Farm Bureau County Presidents’ Conference.
High on the list of attendees’ concerns in the race for the governorship are property rights and eminent domain.
It was the first time White and Perry appeared in the same forum in the 2010 campaign, but they did not appear together. White spoke before Perry. White accused Perry of betraying farmers by vetoing property rights legislation that would have offered some protection to landowners if the now-defunct Trans Texas Corridor project had moved forward. In his time at the podium, Perry confined his remarks to general issues facing Texas.
‘Ready or Not?’ events to come
Although Hurricane Alex and following storms have flooded the Rio Grande Valley from Brownsville to Laredo, there’s no time like the present to prepare for disaster.
The Texas Department of State Health Services along with state and local officials on July 8 launched this year’s “Ready or Not?” multilingual public education campaign to encourage Texans to prepare for emergencies.
“Whether it’s a hurricane, tornado or flood, a disaster can strike when we least expect it, and we want people to be prepared,” said Dr. David Lakey, health commissioner. “We’re one month into hurricane season, but it’s not too late to put together a plan.”
The agency plans to stage 18 free Ready or Not campaign events in 15 cities, using a 20-foot by 20-foot tent filled with informational displays, sample disaster supply kits and an interactive kiosk where visitors can begin or continue their emergency planning.
ARRA: how it has helped Texas
The federal government’s $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act protected the Texas economy and helped families and communities recover from the recession, according to July 2 report by the non-partisan, Austin-based think-tank, the Center for Public Policy Priorities.
In the first quarter of 2010, the report said, ARRA programs helped Texas gain 79,000 jobs; and without ARRA, Texas would have lost 126,000 jobs.
Tax totals continue to increase
Comptroller Susan Combs on July 8 announced state sales tax revenue in June totaled $1.61 billion, a 2.2 percent increase compared to June 2009.
She said total sales tax collections have now slightly exceeded year-ago levels for a third consecutive month.