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The Texas Future Business Alliance - an amalgamation of 10 major business groups, including those from the chemical industry, bankers, builders and contractors - is quietly taking on the tea party. It has begun providing support for GOP candidates being targeted on their right, after backing infrastructure development and education spending.

The limited-government groups have capitalized on their ideological passion, organization and ability to get supporters to the polls in order to wield an outsized influence on the Republican electorate. Organizations such as Empower Texans, the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the tea party are helping push Republican officeholders further and further to the right. Even Sen. John Cornyn, long considered a stalwart of conservative Republicanism, has been painted as a liberal in campaign literature from primary opponent Rep. Steve Stockman.

Although this newspaper applauds these limited-government groups’ engagement in the political process, we recognize that they represent only one segment - and one ideology - within the GOP. That was illustrated in November by the overwhelming passage of Prop 6, which took $2 billion from the state’s rainy-day fund to help finance water infrastructure projects. Prop 6 was opposed by many limited-government groups, yet almost three-quarters of voters approved it. That disagreement set the stage for the pro-business vs. limited-government tussle we’re now seeing in the Republican primaries.

It’s heartening to see increased involvement from business groups, and we hope it will lead to some reflection within Republican ranks about what constitutes being conservative.

There’s certainly nothing conservative about sticking your head in the sand and wishing away the state’s huge and costly infrastructure challenges. A true conservative understands need and what it takes to invest wisely and prudently in the future. A true conservative develops principled ways to meet those needs.

That approach has been a trademark of effective Republican legislators such as House Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio, Sen. John Carona of Dallas and Rep. Byron Cook of Corsicana. And yet, this year all three face primary challenges from the limited-government right. Support from the Texas Future Business Alliance will give such conservative leaders a welcome assist.

Texas faces appreciable infrastructure challenges, such as development of our water supply, highway construction and education funding. We need more conservatives in Austin who will responsibly meet those challenges head-on, rather than pretend they don’t exist.


Austin American-Statesman. Jan. 10, 2014.

Railroad Commission needs to protect in-house seismologist from politics

Science may not hold all the answers to modern-day problems, but it’s a solid starting point, especially for regulatory agencies.

We applaud the state Railroad Commission’s decision this week to conduct a national search to hire a seismologist to evaluate whether oil and gas activity is causing a recent spike in earthquakes in North Texas. We hope that the position will be filled quickly and the in-house scientist will be given the latitude to report the facts, even if they fly in the face of powerful oil and gas interests and political preferences.

The decision, championed by Commissioner David Porter, comes on the heels of a frustrating Jan. 2 public meeting in Azle that drew 800 people in a town of only about 11,000. Porter and commission staff heard an earful from residents who wanted answers about the unusual seismic activity in the area. Despite its name, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the regulatory agency for the oil and gas industry and is responsible for issuing permits for new drilling sites and the accompanying injection disposal wells.

According to news reports, there have been about 30 quakes near Azle (about 20 miles northwest of Fort Worth) since Nov. 1. While none has resulted in major damage or injuries, residents report damaged foundations, broken pipes, disrupted sleep and frazzled nerves. Most residents, including Azle Mayor Alan Brundrett, are convinced that the culprit is natural gas production in the Barnett Shale using hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting large amounts of water at high pressure into the ground and then disposing of the wastewater underground.

Despite a number of studies that suggest there is, in fact, a link between disposal wells and earthquakes, the commission has largely refrained from comment on the subject.

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