Mose Buchele, KUT News

Mose Buchele is the Austin-based broadcast reporter for KUT's NPR partnership StateImpact Texas . He has been on staff at KUT 90.5  since 2009, covering local and state issues.  Mose has also worked as a blogger on politics and an education reporter at his hometown paper in Western Massachusetts. He holds masters degrees in Latin American Studies and Journalism from UT Austin.

Troy Maholik, owner of Crosshairs Texas, says he's not worried about the military exercise called Operation Jade Helm.
Mose Buchele / KUT

The military training exercise called “Operation Jade Helm 15” started today just outside of Bastrop. While military exercises and war games happen all the time, this one gained a lot of attention after conspiracy theorists started suggesting it was part of a plan to takeover Texas and institute martial law.

By now, the surprise of cheap gas has probably worn off.

But drivers on the hunt for the very best prices have noticed a new trend: Small, independent gas stations are often the first to cut prices when the price of crude oil falls. This has a lot to do with how gas is bought, sold and moved from pipeline to pump.

A Dallas jury recently awarded nearly $3 million to a family who said they were poisoned by a natural gas drilling operation near their North Texas ranch. The verdict, reached on April 22, is being called a landmark by opponents of the drilling technique, called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking."

There's been a surge in earthquakes in the U.S. over the last few years. In Texas, there are 10 times the number of earthquakes now than just a few years ago.

Scientists say it's likely linked to the boom in oil and gas activity, meaning that people who never felt the ground shake are starting to.

Here's how Pat Jones of Snyder, Texas, describes the earthquake that struck her town in 2010: "It just sounded like some car hit the back of our house. We got up and checked around and we didn't see anything or hear anything else."

StateImpact Texas

The Keystone XL Pipeline runs under Julia Trigg Crawford’s North Texas farm. It’s been carrying crude for over a month. But today business is scheduled to open in earnest on the controversial pipeline, with oil flowing from Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries in Texas. That’s why she’s worried about an “unusual flurry of activity” she noticed over the weekend.

Mose Buchele / KUT

In a peaceful, wooded corner of Bastrop County, Texas, sits one of the unluckiest dams in the state. In 2011 the Labor Day Wildfires burned soil and vegetation around Clear Springs Lake and its earthen dam. Then, half a year later, a massive rainstorm hit. Water poured over the structure and wreaked havoc on an already crumbling spillway.

TCEQ

In 2008, the Texas State Auditor’s office released the kind of report that keeps public officials awake at night.  It found that state regulators were not ensuring the proper maintenance of thousands of dams in Texas. The audit found that state inspectors had never visited hundreds of dams that could cause loss of life if they failed.

The Dam Safety Program with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is in charge of inspecting the state’s dams. Warren Samuelson, the program’s manager, says that his department has added staff and made progress since that audit was issued.

At Margaret O'Keefe's farm in East Texas, they grow high-quality Bermuda grass. The fields are flat and vibrant green, surrounded by woods of a darker, richer green. The family loves this land. O'Keefe inherited it from her mother, who divided it among eight children.

"She used to call it 'enchanted valley,' " O'Keefe says.

But her "enchanted valley" also lies in the path of the Crosstex NGL Pipeline.