Texas Business Report: Protect the Air, Judge Says

A Texas judge has decreed that the atmosphere and air are a "public trust," just like water.
Sat July 14, 2012 3:07 am
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The Texas economy is one of the most robust in the world. Wildly profitable companies and ingenious entrepreneurs call this state home, and what happens here influences businesses around the nation. Here’s a slice of the profits, losses, big deals, and backroom decisions happening across  Texas this week.

State Care for Air is Fair and Square, Judge Declares
A Texas judge ruled this week that the state must protect the atmosphere and air for public use, similar to how it regulates pollution of public waterways. The Associated Press reports that the decision “could help attorneys tasked with arguing climate change lawsuits designed to force states to cut emissions.”

The lawsuit, filed by the Texas Environmental Law Center, disputed the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s stance that only water should be considered a public trust. Similar lawsuits have been filed in 11 other states.

The Bottom Line : While the ruling is a victory for environmentalists, the judge also acknowledged that “she cannot compel the TCEQ to write rules to protect the atmosphere and the air” until the state resolves similar legal battles in federal court.

Texan Care of Business
Texas has once again claimed the No. 1 spot on CNBC’s list of America's Top States for Business in 2012 , the third time it has done so in the rankings’ six-year history. CNBC examined 51 metrics within 10 categories, including infrastructure (in which Texas ranks first), technology and innovation (second place), and cost of living (third place). Utah usurped Virginia to finish second in the overall rankings.

The Bottom Line : The state could still stand to improve in some categories: We finished 26th in education, 28th in cost of doing business, and 35th in quality of life.

Aw Hail No!
Texas led the nation in hailstorm-related insurance claims in June, with a single storm in Dallas accounting for 100,000 claims and $1 billion in losses. During the June 13 storm, “vehicles were pummeled while stuck on the Dallas Central Expressway during an evening rush hour,” Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports. Nationwide, insurers paid out at least $1.7 billion for hail damages.

The Bottom Line : Texas also topped April’s list of costliest storms in the U.S. after tornados caused widespread damage in the DFW area. Oklahoma claimed that title in May, with one storm that led to $400 million in losses.

Moo Money, Moo Problems
Dallas-based Dean Foods, the country’s largest dairy processor, took a hit this week in the wake of a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasting high milk prices and slowed production in the months ahead. Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports the company’s stock fell 6.6 percent on the news, its biggest drop in eight months.

The Bottom Line : The USDA attributes the rise in milk prices to the ongoing drought in the Midwest, which “increases the cost of animal feed and encourages a more rapid decline in the cow herd.”

Winner of the Week: The Austin Film Society
The National Endowment for the Arts awarded a $75,000 grant to the Austin Film Society this week to help pay for renovation plans at its Austin Studios complex at the former Mueller airport site. Proposed improvements for the 10-year-old site include a visitors center, screening rooms, landscaping and offices. According to the Austin American-Statesman , “the film industry had an economic impact of almost $300 million in Austin and accounted for more than 2,700 jobs as of 2010.”

Loser of the Week: Valence Technology
Weighed down by an “ongoing lag between its financial obligations and incoming order revenue,” Austin-based battery manufacturer Valence Technology Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection , according to the Austin American-Statesman . This week’s announcement follows a board dispute earlier this month that led two of the company’s directors to resign in protest of the decision to declare bankruptcy. Valence — which makes batteries for automotive, industrial and military clients — still has a pending $3 million debt payment on the horizon, but it plans to continue all operations during restructuring, the Statesman reports.

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