News Roundup: Greg Abbott Sends Top Aide To Sort Out “Unacceptable’ Mistakes At Human Service Agency

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Alexandra HartApril 17, 2018 2:11 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Governor Greg Abbott says he’s sending top aide and former state Senator Tommy Williams to address “unacceptable” mistakes at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

In a 30-page report released Monday, the Texas State Auditor’s Office found that the commission, along with the Department of State Health Services, botched a contract with a private company that would be managing the state’s birth and death records system. Auditors found that officials didn’t get the right approval to amend a contract with Genesis Systems to run the records database. That mistake delayed the system’s launch by a year – to the tune of $1.8 million.

The new report comes just a week after the governor sharply criticized the Health and Human Services Commission over another bugled contract. In that case, it was over mishandled contracts to administer the Children’s Health Insurance Program in rural parts of Texas. Three employees were fired after the commission was berated by Governor Abbott.

Williams, is a former lawmaker from the Woodlands. He currently serves as Abbott’s senior advisor for fiscal affairs. There is currently no set end date for his special assignment at the Health and Human Services Commission.

Oil giant BP has announced it will commit to lowering their methane emissions. They’re the first major international oil company to do so.

KUT Austin’s Mose Buchele has more:

Methane is much more potent than carbon emissions when it comes to climate change and accounts for about a quarter of global warming.  Plugging leaks and updating equipment in oil and gas field operations would go a long way to reducing methane in the atmosphere. Now that’s what BP says it’s going to do at sites that produce natural gas for market. Ben Ratner works on methane issues at the Environmental Defense Fund. He says the BP announcement is an exciting first step. but…

“For a methane target to be strong it must cover oil and gas production and that’s an important way that the BP target should be improved in the future is that oil production where they’re not marketing the gas can still have methane emissions and those emissions must be targeted,” he says

The company says it will only allow .2 percent of methane released in its gas operations to escape into the atmosphere.  Ratner says he’d also like an independent system set up to verify whether the company is reaching that goal.

Officials are warning of potentially life-threatening wildfire conditions in parts of the southwest and southern plains Tuesday. High winds and low humidity in drought-parched areas could create ideal conditions for the spread of wildfires in parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas.

So far, widespread wildfires in Oklahoma have killed two, and hospitalized nine others for smoke inhalation and heat related injuries.

Gov. Greg Abbott Friday issued a drought disaster declaration for 72 counties in the Panhandle and central Texas. Forecasters say wildfire threat levels are currently at their highest in at least a decade.