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October 26, 1999     (512) 463-0300

Natural Resources Meets in Amarillo

AMARILLO - The Senate Committee on Natural Resources held a public hearing, Tuesday, October 26, 1999 in the Amarillo City Council Chambers. Members of the committee include Senators J.E 'Buster' Brown of Lake Jackson, serving as chair, Ken Armbrister of Victoria, serving as vice-chair, Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin, Teel Bivins of Amarillo, Tom Haywood of Wichita Falls, Eddie B. Lucio Jr. of Brownsville, and Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant.

The committee is traveling throughout the state hearing testimony on the interim charges issued by Lt. Governor Rick Perry. Perry's charges included issues surrounding the Clean Air Act, groundwater resources, the roles of Texas' river authorities, and radioactive waste storage. Other topics of study include challenges facing the Texas coast, the future of the state's oil and natural gas industry, and monitoring implementaion of various bills passed during the regular session. Details of interim committee charges can be found on the committee web page.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs was the first to testify on the states' groundwater resources. Her testimony was followed by C.E. Williams, General Manager of the Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District; Richard Bowers, General Manager of the North Plains Ground Water Conservation District #2; and Michael Dillard testified representing Dallam County Underground Water Conservation District #1.

Testimony was taken regarding the roles and missions of Texas' river authorities located in the Panhandle. Those testifying included Ronald Lynn representing the Red River Authority of Texas, John Williams, General Manager of the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority; and James Darrington, General Manager of the Palo Duro River Authority.

Jeff Saitas, Executive Director of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC), testified on the implementation of legislation passed during the 76th Legislative Session. The new laws include House Bill 2, which relates to agriculture and state agriculture policy; Senate Bill 7, which relates to electric utlity restructuring; and Senate Bill 766, which relates to the issuance of certain permits for the emission of air contaminants.

The future of the oil and gas industry in Texas was discussed by Wayne Hughes, Executive Vice President of the Panhandle Royalty Owners and Producers Association.

The final witness was Terry Cox of PanTex. He discussed PanTex's waste management program which centered on storage and disposal options for low-level radioactive waste.

The committee heard other testimony from individuals who disagree with the October 7, 1999 Texas Supreme Court decision on the Canadian River Case. These people are unhappy with the court ruling that 13,000 acres below the Sanford Dam is private property. The ruling reduced the amount of land owned by the state which had been open to the public for hunting and fishing.

The committee will submit its findings in the form of a report to be presented to the 77th Legislature which will convene in January of 2001.

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