Texas Matters
1:44 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Small Earthquakes Rock North Texas Town, Residents Demand Answers From Railroad Commission

Texas Matters: Residents in North Texas are dealing with the increased frequency of small earthquakes that some people are linking to oil and gas drilling in the area. State Rep. Mike Villarreal talks about the possible conflict of interest with William White, who as chair of the Texas Finance Commission is also vice president of a payday loan company. Also on this show: Population growth in Texas and the Kallison ranching family.

Anger greets state officials in quake-prone Texas town

In the last few months, dozens of small earthquakes have shook the North Texas town of Azle, outside of Fort Worth. The quakes are thought to be linked to oil and gas drilling in the area. Specifically, the millions of gallons of disposal of wastewater from drilling, which is typically pumped underground. 

On Thursday night the state agency that regulates the Texas oil and gas industry held a meeting in Azle, Texas, which is where KUT’s Mose Buchele reports for StateImpact Texas.

Controversial comments spark conflict of interest concerns

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is calling for the resignation of William J. White as chairman of the Finance Commission of Texas. Davis, who is the likely Democratic candidate for governor, responded to quotes attributed to White published in the "El Paso Times" about White’s thoughts about payday lending, an industry his agency oversees.

White is the vice president of Cash America, a payday lending company that was sanctioned by the federal government last month for violating the law and obstructing the investigation.

In the "El Paso Times" article, Davis called White’s position "a blatant conflict of interest."

Davis is now getting support from state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, who is the chair of the House Committee on Investments and Financial Services and is also calling for White to step down.

"It's always an important principle to try and educate people and to make them responsible for their choices. But I also believe that when you are a policy maker and are in a position of responsibility, as he is, in overseeing what's in the best interest of the entire state, you need to have a more balanced approach and recognize that we don't want to have an economy that's predatory, that is encouraging people to set up enterprises solely to take advantage of the less informed, less savvy consumer."

Also on this edition of Texas Matters:

We're already big, but are still growing

Texas saw more population growth last year -- more than 387,000 residents between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013 moved here, and more than 1.3 million since April 1, 2010. This is significantly more than any other state, according to estimates released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Steve Murdock is the former head of the U.S. Census Bureau and now director of the Rice University Hobby Center for the Study of Texas.

"There's no doubt that population growth has both positives and some negatives. Positive in the sense that it increases economic activity, so it's helpful for business activity. It often brings with it...young people with substantial skills. On the other hand it comes with costs. It comes with more traffic, it comes with demand for public services such as schools and all of the other public services that we think of."

A Czar among ranchers

"The Harness Makers Dream: Nathan Kallison and the Rise of South Texas" by Nick Kotz.

Kallison is a name familiar to Texans who know ranching. The family helped develop and popularize modern-day ranching techniques that were critical during the big drought of the 1950s.

But how the Kallison name came to Texas is a story fit for Hollywood and it’s told in the new book "The Harness Makers Dream: Nathan Kallison and the Rise of South Texas" written by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nick Kotz.

"Nathan Kallison came to the United States as a 17-year-old immigrant from Russia. He ended up in San Antonio, Texas, in 1899 and opened a one-room harness shop, which grew into the largest farm and ranch supply store in the Southwest. But what made what he did more significant -- in addition to the store he was a pioneer rancher who experimented with, tried to carry out everything that Texas A&M and the extension service were trying to introduce to Texas ranchers.

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