AUSTIN – People who want to learn more about wind energy and what it means for the Panhandle and the South Plains should mark 9 a.m. April 24 on their calendars.
The House Regulated Industries Committee will hold a public hearing then at the Panhandle Conference Center, Region 16 Education Service Center, 5800 Bell St. in Amarillo, to discuss major wind energy development in the Panhandle/South Plains region.
Considering the short notice, it is an ideal location, said State Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, who along with his colleague David Swinford, R-Dumas, sits on the nine-member panel.
The Center is spacious, centrally located and has plenty of parking, Smithee said.
Every county in the region is expected to send at least a representative or two. In addition, a good number of lobbyists and prospective investors are expected. Wind energy is being touted as a multibillion-dollar industry in the region because it is clean and inexhaustible.
As Swinford, who has been working for more than four years to bring wind energy to the region puts it: “with wind power, you don’t use one ounce of water, or any oil or gas. If that is not a good deal I don’t know what a good deal is.”
The office of Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, chairman of the committee, said there will be invited testimony only, but Smithee said he will ask King to allow the public to ask questions.
If that presents a conflict – at least two members of the Public Utility Commission will be at the hearing and PUC members have judicial status and cannot hear opinions in public forums, Smithee said he will see that at least he and Swinford can answer any questions in an informal setting at the conclusion of the hearing.
“If the public has any questions, they should be able to get answers,” Smithee said.
Some big-name investors who have already been widely mentioned include billionaire Boone Pickens, the Hunt family of Dallas, Xcel Energy and Florida Public Line.
Xcel, for one, already owns a significant wind farm in Oldham County, Smithee said.
In addition to the hearing, committee members, PUC members and others will get a tour of the area so they can see how abundant the wind is in the Panhandle and how the flat topography would help because there would no problem carrying, installing and operating the giant windmills.
“I think it is going to be helpful for some of the members who don’t live in wind-generating areas to come out,” Smithee said.
Delwin Jones unopposed
This may be hard for some people to believe – or to stomach – but Rep. Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock, is now running unopposed.
Citing irreconcilable differences with his party, Libertarian candidate Jerry Hix said he quit the House District 83 race.
Jones, who for years has faced challengers in the Republican primary, in the general election or both, said he’s happy Hix withdrew his candidacy.
“Now I can devote all my time to my district’s needs,” he said.
Although no Libertarian has ever won a seat in the Legislature, Jones said his past campaigns have taught him not to take any opponent lightly. In the March 4 primary, Jones easily defeated his opponent Joe Hnatek, a political newcomer.
When asked if he would resume his effort to run for House speaker, Jones said he would wait until the April 8 runoff before deciding what do next. There are at least half-dozen House races in which incumbents or political newcomers in open seats are still running.
30 March 2008
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