Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

My Five Cents

A monthly column from Sen. Robert Nichols

by Sen. Robert Nichols, Senate District 3

On March 2, 1836, 59 delegates signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, formally

declaring independence from Mexico and forming the Republic of Texas. We celebrate their

bravery, courage, and resolve still today.

Here are five things happening around the state:

1. Broadband Development Office embarks on listening tour

This month, the Broadband Development Office embarked on its statewide listening tour,

planning twelve stops in communities around the state. The aim of the listening tour is to gather

insights and information from the community about internet access to develop the state’s first

broadband plan. The listening tour is key to developing the plan, which is set to be completed

this summer. Stops in East Texas include Beaumont and Tyler. While the Beaumont event has

already occurred, the Tyler event will be held on April 6. If you cannot attend these events, the

Office encourages you to fill out the broadband survey found here:


2. Senate Business and Commerce Committee holds interim hearing on electricity

The Senate Committee on Business and Commerce held an interim hearing to review actions

taken by ERCOT, the PUC, and other entities over the winter and conduct oversight of the

implementation of Senate Bill 3 from last session. We heard testimony from various state

agencies and stakeholders on the state of the electric market in ERCOT. As vice chair of the

committee, myself and other members heard updates on what has been done to strengthen the

ERCOT grid since Winter Storm Uri, including increasing communication among the electric

and gas industries, winterizing facilities, and improving transparency and communication with

the public. The committee also heard testimony about studies being done by the Public Utility

Commission to explore changes to the electric market design to increase reliability and

performance of the grid. This work was directed by the Legislature following Winter Storm Uri,

as the Legislature recognized that the State must do all it can to prepare for future extreme


3. Oil and gas waste disposal permit application withdrawn from Railroad Commission

Last week, the examiners presiding over the permit application for PA Prospect, a Montana-

based oil and gas waste company, to open an oil and gas waste disposal site in San Augustine

recommended that the Texas Railroad Commission deny the permit. The company has now

asked the RRC to withdraw their application without prejudice. This issue is one I have been

watching closely as there has been significant community opposition to the facility due to

environmental and other concerns. As such, I’ve written a letter with Representative Trent Ashby

to the RRC asking them to withdraw the application with prejudice to ensure that this application

cannot be resubmitted. We feel it is warranted here in light of the numerous discrepancies in the

application and the fact that the Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists issued a Notice of

Violation to the geoscientist who prepared the application. The withdrawal of the application is a

victory for this community nonetheless.

4. Texas hosts two space ports and NASA

Texas is unique many ways, but one that sets it apart is truly out-of-this-world. Texas is home to

three space-related entities, including Blue Origin, SpaceX, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

NASA’s human space flight program has been headquartered in Texas since the 1960s. The

newcomers to space travel were created more recently. The two private commercial space flight

companies are headed by two of the world’s richest men, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Jeff Bezos,

founded Blue Origin in 2000 with the goal of developing partially and fully reusable launch

vehicles that can ferry passengers safely to and from space. Its launch site is in Van Horn in

West Texas. Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 and is more focused on developing rockets that

would enable humans to visit and even live on other planets. SpaceX’s launch site is near

Brownsville in South Texas. Texas embraces the forward-thinking technology of all three space

sites and how they push the boundaries of what is possible.

5. SFA receives grant for girls outdoors program

Earlier this month, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced they awarded $2 million

in Community Outdoor Outreach Program grants to 41 recipients. One recipient was Stephen F.

Austin State University for the East Texas Adventure Girls Science Academy. They received

over $57,000 to continue their work guiding 100 middle school girls from diverse backgrounds

through a transformative series of East Texas outdoor adventures and overnight expeditions to

Mission Tejas and Caddo Lake state parks. Congratulations!


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