The Texas House of Representatives gave preliminary approval to House Bill 13 by Rep. David Swinford (Dumas) to improve the coordination of homeland security operations along the Texas border and reduce criminal activity.

“Mexican cartels take advantage of our porous border with Mexico to traffic drugs and other criminal activity throughout Texas and the rest of the United States,” Rep. Swinford said. “Portions of our border with Mexico are controlled by drug lords where murder and crime is skyrocketing. We must take control of our border, and this legislation will get us closer to that goal.”

Swinford’s legislation creates the Border Security Council whose members will be appointed by the governor and whose function will be to oversee the distribution of $103 million to border law enforcement agencies. A legislative committee would be created to monitor this activity and report back to the legislature on the effectiveness of these programs.

Concurrently, state funds could be leveraged with federal funds under legislation currently pending before Congress.

The bill also encourages cities and counties to cooperate with federal agencies in immigration matters, allowing for the withholding of homeland security funding in the event they actively disregard federal laws. A legislative study will also be conducted to evaluate the expedited deportation of illegal immigrants held in state jails and prisons for criminal offenses.

“This is one of the most important pieces of legislation that we will pass this session as it affects the safety of every citizen of this state and country,” Speaker Tom Craddick (Midland) said. “I want to thank Chairman Swinford for putting forth a bipartisan bill that will beef up the homeland security structure in Texas.”

Before becoming law, the bill must receive a final vote in the House, be approved by the Senate and then signed by the governor.

Increased child sex abuse penalties pass

The Senate approved a measure Monday intended to aid district attorneys in prosecuting those who repeatedly sexually abuse a child over a period of time. Senate Bill 78, by Plano Senator Florence Shapiro, creates a new type of offense, called continuous sexual abuse of a child. This would apply to someone that commits a sexual assault or indecency with a child under 14 years of age more than once over a 90 day period. Anyone convicted under this proposed law would face a minimum sentence of 25 years in jail, without possibility of parole. “I am offering this bill to give prosecutors a tool they need to get convictions in the very difficult situation when a child has been the victim of on-going sexual abuse,” said Shapiro.

This bill is very similar to language in HB 8, also known as Jessica’s Law, which passed the Senate earlier in the session. That bill created a similar penalty, but only if the crimes are committed within 30 days. Monday’s bill creates a back-up vehicle for continuous sexual abuse of a child to become law, if conferees on HB 8 are unable to reach a compromise.

Also on Monday, the Senate passed a bill that would give the Legislature more oversight over lawsuits against the state. SB 2031, by Bryan Sen. Steve Ogden, would require the Legislature to approve any settlement over $5 million. This would prevent situations where the attorney general can agree to a very large settlement without legislative involvement.

RRC production statistics,

allowables for May

The Texas average rig count as of April 20 was 824, representing about 47 percent of all active land rigs in the United States. In the last 12 months, total Texas reported production was 341 million barrels of oil and 6.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Texas natural gas production represents approximately 29 percent of total U.S. natural gas demand.

The commission’s estimated final production for February 2007 is 26,541,834 barrels of crude oil and 423,476,033 Mcf (thousand cubic feet) of gas well gas.

The commission derives final production numbers by multiplying the preliminary February 2007 production totals of 25,343,105 barrels of crude oil and 382,164,094 Mcf of gas well gas by a production adjustment factor of 1.0473 for crude oil and 1.1081 for gas well gas. (These production totals do not include casinghead gas or condensate.)

Texas natural gas storage reported by the commission for March 2007 is 273,646,299 Mcf compared to 276,418,435 Mcf in March 2006. The April 2007 gas storage estimate is 284,984,737 Mcf.

The Texas Railroad Commission’s Oil and Gas Division set initial May 2007 natural gas production allowables for prorated fields in the state to meet market demand of 19,408,772 Mcf (thousand cubic feet). In setting the initial May 2007 allowables, the commission used historical production figures from previous months, producers’ demand forecasts for the coming month and adjusted the figures based on well capability. These initial allowables will be adjusted after actual production for May 2007 is reported.

March permits

to drill

The Commission issued a total of 1,711 original drilling permits in March 2007 compared to 1,844 in March 2006. The March total included 1,508 permits to drill new oil and gas wells, 38 to re-enter existing well bores and 165 for re-completions. Permits issued in March 2007 included 284 oil, 490 gas, 880 oil and gas, 49 injection, two service and six other permits.

February crude oil production

Texas preliminary February 2007 crude oil production averaged 905,111 barrels daily, up from the 902,676 barrels daily average of February 2006.

The preliminary Texas crude oil production figure for February 2007 is 25,343,105 barrels, an increase from 25,299,033 barrels reported during February 2006.

March oil and gas completions

In March 2007, operators reported 370 oil, 697 gas, 12 injection and five other completions compared to 520 oil, 787 gas, 39 injection and zero other completions during March 2006.

Total well completions for 2007 year to date are 3,683 up from 3,399 recorded during the same period in 2006.

Operators reported 536 holes plugged and seven dry holes in March 2007 compared to 352 holes plugged and zero dry holes in March 2006.

February natural gas production

Texas oil and gas wells produced 435,771,712 Mcf (thousand cubic feet) of gas based upon preliminary production figures for February 2007, up from the February 2006 preliminary gas production total of 389,177,648 Mcf.

Texas production in February 2007 came from 138,837 oil and 77,340 gas wells.

Johnson County ranked ninth in the state in total gas production in February, producing 10,756,777 Mcf during the month.