QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It was a fabulous year. I say we didn’t just break the record, we smashed the records.”
—Donna Shaver, National Park Service Division Chief of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at Padre Island National Seashore, to KXAS on Tuesday. Shaver said beach patrols have discovered a record 353 Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests in Texas, including 219 at Padre Island National Seashore, besting a previous record set in 2012, when there were 209 nests found in Texas, including 117 at Padre Island. The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is the world’s most endangered sea turtle.
The top Republican in the Texas House joined the growing number of Texas politicians calling for the removal of a Confederate plaque at the Capitol. Texas House Speaker Joe Straus said on Tuesday that the plaque should be taken down as soon as possible. “The plaque says that the Civil War was not an act of rebellion and was not primarily about slavery. This is not accurate, and Texans are not well-served by incorrect information about our history,” Straus wrote in a letter to the State Preservation Board, according to the Dallas Morning News. “Those of us who serve on the State Preservation Board should direct staff to identify the steps necessary to remove this plaque as soon as practicable.” Straus also said in the letter that the “historical accuracy and context” of a dozen more public displays at the Capitol referencing the Civil War should be reviewed. “We have an obligation to all the people we serve to ensure that our history is described correctly, especially when it comes to a subject as painful as slavery,” Straus wrote. His letter comes amid a national movement to get rid of Confederate monuments, and days after a statue of Robert E. Lee was controversially taken down in Dallas. Other lawmakers had called for the removal of the plaque, originally pointed out by Representative Eric Johnson, a Dallas Democrat, about a month ago. “I just have to applaud him for being such an honest and thoughtful leader and just doing the right thing here,” Johnson said of Straus to the Morning News. “I’m confident it’s coming down.” Straus’s letter is notable because he’s highest-ranking state lawmaker in Texas so far to call for the removal of a Confederate monument. Meanwhile, Governor Greg Abbott said last month that “tearing down monuments won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future.”
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
Is He Running?
U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro downplayed reports that he’s considering a run for Texas governor in 2018. The San Antonio Democrat was “trailed by a handful of reporters” as he exited a summit on citizen diplomacy at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday, according to the Austin American-Statesman. He was peppered with questions about his possible plans to run for governor, but largely brushed them aside. When asked directly if he was considering a gubernatorial run, he said, “No. I have nothing further to add right now. My plan is to run for re-election, as I said when we had a press conference here about a month ago.” Castro has long been thought a top candidate for the Democrats to challenge Greg Abbott, and with the party failing to come up with a serious challenger so far, recent comments by the Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa once again added fuel to the “Castro for governor” flame—Hinojosa told the Dallas Morning News a week ago that Castro is “considering” making a run for the governor’s mansion.
A new study shows that FEMA’s flood map only covered about 25 percent of damages caused by flooding from Hurricane Harvey in Houston, according to the Houston Chronicle. As the Chronicle notes, the 100-year flood plain map in Houston has never carried much water for many Houstonians, consistently leaving flooded homes outside of the flood risk zone. But the new study by Rice University and Texas A&M at Galveston shows that scope of how inaccurate FEMA’s maps are really are. Researchers looked at flood damage claims from southeast Houston suburban neighborhoods from 1999 to 2009, finding that FEMA’s flood maps failed to show 75 percent of flood damage. “The takeaway from this study, which was borne out in Harvey, is that many losses occur in areas outside FEMA’s 100-year flood plain,” study co-author Antonia Sebastian said in a statement, according to the Chronicle. The study also found that FEMA’s flood maps are too one dimensional and assume that water only travels either upstream or downstream.
A Valero refinery in Port Arthur caught fire on Tuesday, casting a “huge plume of black smoke” over the city, according to the Port Arthur News. It’s unclear what caused the fire, and a Valero spokesman told the News that there were no injuries or fatalities, adding that “air monitoring conducted by EPA and TCEQ both confirmed there was no negative off-site community impact,” though a shelter-in-place order was temporarily issued for nearby homes and schools. A video of the fire appears to show that the blaze damaged at least one storage tank, according to the Beaumont Enterprise. The refinery had been shut down due to flooding from Hurricane Harvey, and Valero said last week that the refinery was working at 40 percent to 50 percent of its capacity, according to the San Antonio Express-News, which also noted that the Environmental Protection Agency recently found that Valero “significantly underestimated” a benzene release when a storage tank failed at its Houston refinery after Harvey.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.
One of Houston’s dirtiest superfund sites experienced three spills after Harvey Associated Press
The history of Texas six-man football is pretty cloudy San Antonio Express-News
Some transgender Texans are running for public office as lawmakers target their community Texas Tribune
A man was killed upon his forced return to Mexico, despite his wife’s warnings to his immigration judge Austin American-Statesman
The city of Mercedes got rid of its city manager after just two months on the job McAllen Monitor