Friday, April 3, 1998
Senate OKs low-level radioactive compact
By MICHELLE MITTELSTADT
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) April 3, 1998 - An agreement allowing Maine
and Vermont to ship their low-level radioactive waste to
Texas is a step closer to reality now that the Senate has
signed off on the controversial deal.
Late in the night Wednesday, the Senate accepted the Texas
Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact without debate or
roll-call vote, passing the legislation under its "unanimous
Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who has been pushing for the
legislation's passage since 1994, hailed the Senate action,
as did Maine's other senator, Susan Collins.
"This is good news for Maine, Vermont and Texas that will
address our state's low-level waste disposal problems with
this voluntary agreement,'' the two Republicans said
Thursday in a joint statement. Snowe also termed the deal an
"outstanding insurance policy for Maine.''
But anti-nuclear activists who have teamed with West Texans
opposed to the proposed Texas dump, which the state of Texas
wants to build near Sierra Blanca, denounced the bill's
"It's a gray day for West Texas,'' said Diane D'Arrigo of
the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.
The House last year approved the compact, which would allow
the two New England states to ship their waste to Texas in
exchange for payments of $25 million apiece.
The dump, which Texas wants to build at a site seven miles
southeast of Sierra Blanca and 120 miles southwest of Pecos,
would house radioactive components from dismantled nuclear
power plants and industrial and medical waste. The facility
has been designed to take in 45,000 to 50,000 cubic feet of
waste annually over its projected 30-year lifespan.
Senate passage now paves the way for House and Senate
negotiators to reconcile differences in the two bills. The
compromise then must go back through both chambers and be
signed by the president before it becomes law.
The Senate's leading compact opponent, Democrat Paul
Wellstone, who has thwarted consideration of the legislation
for the last few years, expressed satisfaction Thursday that
he was able to modify the legislation.
"It's good news from my point of view,'' he said, "because
for a year and a half or so I've said `Look, I'm not willing
to agree to this unless we have a debate on those
After Wellstone threw roadblocks in the path of the Maine
and Vermont senators, as well as Texas Sens. Phil Gramm and
Kay Bailey Hutchison, the supporters agreed to accept two
amendments. One would limit the senders of waste accepted by
Texas to the states of Maine and Vermont, excluding all
others. The other would make it easier for individuals to
seek legal recourse if they feel their communities have been
unfairly targeted for a dump because of poverty, ethnicity
Texas officials insist the dump would be limited to the
three compact members. But critics note that the compact as
originally written gives the Texas Low-Level Radioactive
Waste Disposal Authority leeway to open the dump to
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, who expressed fears that Texas
could become the "pay toilet for the country," tacked on the
limiting language to the House bill and Wellstone did the
same in the Senate.
But compact supporters will be looking to strip the Doggett
and Wellstone language out of the bills when conferees meet.
The amendment is strongly opposed by the nuclear industry
and has met with a cold shoulder from Texas, Maine and
"Our goal ultimately would be to see a clean bill come out
as ratified by the states," Snowe spokesman Dave Lackey
Compact proponents argue that any changes to the original
language, already ratified by the three states'
legislatures, would force a lengthy reratification process.
Opponents say reratification is unnecessary.
Wellstone made clear that he will renew his objections to
final passage of the compact if his amendments are deleted.
"It would be disingenuous at best, and maybe worse than
that, to have had the House pass the Doggett amendment and
also pass our amendment over here ... and then (have compact
supporters) turn around and try to knock it out," Wellstone
said. "I don't think people understand that kind of
The compact's main House sponsor, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis,
who last year agreed at the last minute to include the
Doggett amendment in the House bill, declined comment
TNMP rates high on customer complaints
By GREG HARMAN
PECOS, April 3, 1998 - To be competitive in the utility
market of the future, which continues to gird itself for a
likely-to-be deregulated market, electric companies must be
financially-lean and market-strong. The large number of
companies that make-up the Texas electric utility industry,
operating on the assumption that the 1999 state legislature
will enact pro-competition legislation, are furiously
pushing for settlements that will help pay off their large
deficits generated by over spending in the previous decade.
Texas-New Mexico Power Company, which recently found its
common ground with the Public Utility Commission of Texas in
an eight month-long rate case, has some ground yet to travel
on that road to fiscal competitiveness and customer
The Public Utility Commission released a list Wednesday of
the electric companies with the highest customer complaint
ratios. Texas-New Mexico Power Company ranked number four,
behind Cherokee County Electric Co-op (1), Entergy Gulf
States Inc., (2), and Trinity Valley Electric Co-op (3).
TNMP spokesperson Valerie Smith said the blame for the many
complaints filed with the Public Utility Commission of Texas
may rest on the aggressive tactics of competing power
companies and high winter bills.
"We have a couple of areas next to co-ops that are taking
aggressive efforts at competition (with TNMP)," said TNMP
spokeswoman Valerie Smith. "We're not sure if those are
really complaints. I suspect some may be high bill
Smith said the total number of complaints filed with PUC by
Texas customers against Texas-New Mexico Power Company was
26 out of a total customer base in the state of about
180,000. By this morning, the company had identified
thirteen of the 26 complaints as associated with what Smith
referred to "aggressive tactics of a competing company" in
North Texas, and involved the meter disconnect fee charged
by TNMP when a household switches electric companies.
"We do our own customer satisfaction surveys every year and
by and large we get high marks on everything but rates."
There was also disagreement, or a "non-unanimous
stipulation," in the recent settlement with PUC, according
to PUC spokesperson Saralee Tiede.
Those in agreement on the company's
Transition-To-Competition plan and restated stipulation
included, but was not limited to: the general council of
PUC; TNMP itself; a majority of the cities served by TNMP;
and an association representing low-income customers.
Those against the restated stipulation included The Gulf
Coast Coalition of Cities, representing a handful of Gulf
Coast cities, the Office of Public Utility Council (OPUC),
representing residential and small business interests, and
Said Tiede of OPUC's rejection of the stipulation,"They felt
that the agreement stretched too far into the future and
were concerned that rate payers would be stuck paying too
large a share of the company's stranded costs." Plainly put,
Tiende said, OPUC was concerned that customers may be paying
off "the cost of the company's coal plant."
Completed in 1991, TNP One, TNMP's coal plant cost the
company about $650 million to construct, according to TNMP
Treasurer Patrick Bridges. And the ECOM, or "stranded costs"
(the costs for TNMP to be competitive in a deregulated
environment), associated with the plant, as of Jan. 1, is
estimated at about $272.1 million.
"We were not in agreement with several of the main issues,"
said Jim Rourke, assistant public council for the Office of
Public Utility Council.
One of those issues was the length of the proposed
transition period. TNMP is requesting a transition period of
five years, with another five-year period following for
recovery of any remaining stranded costs in the form of
Competitive Transition Charges, or CTC's, charged to its
regular customers. OPUC advised a two-year transition
period, similar to what was adopted by both Houston Lighting
& Power and Texas Electric, ending when the state
legislative session begins in 1999.
OPUC also disagreed with TNMP's decision to eliminate its
Power Cost Recovery Factor. The PCRF originally passed
company savings to its customers. The elimination of it will
pass those savings to the company.
According to Rourke, OPUC also believed that the TNMP
proposed rates are too high. "There should be deeper
reductions," he said.
And on a final note, the Office of the Public Utility
Council was in sharp disagreement over how TNMP proposed to
handle its stranded costs. "We think there is less ECOM than
what they are claiming," said Rourke. Under the proposal, he
said, customers are responsible for paying 100 percent of
the stranded costs incurred with the construction of TNP 1
and purchased power contracts. "We believe that should be
determined by the (Texas) Legislature."
According to Rourke, the association representing low-income
customers had been against the restated stipulation
throughout negotiations until the night before the final
vote. "(TNMP) cut a deal with them," he said.
That deal, according to Randy Chapman, legal representative
for the Low-Income Interveners, came in the form of a
promise by TNMP to institute low-income weatherization
programs. "They promised this to the Public Utility
Commission two years ago," said Chapman, "but they never got
it off the ground."
This program, constituting 0.12 percent of the total TNMP
operating budget, will go into effect next year and will be
funded, at first, by its stockholders, said Chapman.
The Transition-To-Competition plan, filed by TNMP with PUC
on July 31, 1997, promises a series of rate reductions for
customers over a five-year transition period that would
total about nine percent in residential customer reductions
and three percent reductions for commercial customers by
Jan. 1, 2002.
These reductions were originally to have begun for customers
on Jan. 1 this year. With the proposal still moving through
the legal channels, Senior Vice President Jack Chambers
appeared before the City Council of the Town of Pecos City
on March 26, 1998, to state that the company expected to be
able to offer the first three percent reduction to customers
in June, which would be retroactive back to the
originally-proposed date of Jan. 1.
According to the proposal, customers would also be able to
choose what company would supply their electric power at the
end of the five-year transition. TNMP would remain the power
This plan differs from TNMP's Community Choice plan, which
was filed with PUC in 1996 and later abandoned when it
became apparent to TNMP officials that settlement of several
key issues was unlikely.
The proposal now sits with the State Office of
Administrative Hearings, where the pros and cons of the
agreement will be discussed.
The Administrative Law Judge order will then be drafted,
giving all parties time to file their briefs. Then the three
PUC commissioners will call an open meeting, to be held in
Austin, in which their final decision on the proposal will
be announced. TNMP, at this point, along with the other
parties involved, will be able to accept or reject the
On March 31, PUC commissioners made their final decision to
approve, with modifications, both Houston Lighting & Power
Company and Texas Utilities proposals, even though they each
had non-unanimous stipulations. HLP and TU now have until
April 21 to accept or reject the commissioners' offer.
The difference with TNMP's case lies in the fact that OPUC
approved the stipulations of both HLP and TU, but not that
The City Council of the Town of Pecos City voted to support
TNMP's proposal on Sep. 11, 1997, despite the recommendation
of City Attorney Scott Johnson that "the city would benefit
more if (the council) did nothing" about the proposal.
How do your electric rates stack up?
PECOS, April 3, 1998 - Compare these residential rates for
1000 kilowatt-hours of service for the month of March.
Southwestern Electric Power out of Longview sat at $55.62
per kilowatt-hour; Upshur-Rural Co-Op based in Gilmer
charged customers $56.84; City Public Service out of San
Antonio was at $58.23; and the Bluebonnet Co-op out of
Giddings was at $62.32.
In Amarillo, Southwestern Public Service charged $63.04 per
kilowatt-hour; Tri-County Co-Op in Azle was at $63.72;
Victoria Co-Op in Victoria rested at $67.03; the City of
Austin charge was $68.40; Kerville PUB sat just shy of the
$70 mark, at $69.10; and Guadalupe Valley Co-Op out of
Gonzales charged its customers $70.07.
Lubbock's South Plains Co-Op in Lubbock took $71.70; West
Texas Utilities out of Abilene charged $72.13; Entergy Gulf
States out of Beaumont sat at $73.22; in Huntsville,
Mid-South Co-Op charged $74.39; Texas Utilities charged
$74.67; and the Erath County Co-Op passed along its $75.88
per kilowatt-hour charge.
Denton County Co-Op cost $78.64; Houston Lighting and Power
charged $79.10; Pedernales Co-Op out of Johnson City had a
rate of $79.72; and Jacksonville's Southwestern Electric
Service charged its customers $87.22.
Texas-New Mexico Power vied for the highest rates by
charging customers $87.24 per kilowatt-hour, but El Paso
Electric took those honors by charging customers $101.96 per
kilowatt-hour of service.
Groups to help poor with medication
By CARA ALLIGOOD
PECOS, April 3, 1998 - Many people in the Pecos area have
low incomes and no insurance or governmental aid program to
cover their needs for prescription medications. Many of
those people turn to the Texas Department of Human Services
(TDH), the Community Council of Reeves County, the Reeves
County Hospital or local churches for help.
The hospital has an indigent program, but the program has to
follow very strictly legislated guidelines. The hospital's
program can only help the very poorest people in the county.
Rey Carreon, manager of the Pecos TDH office, said that many
times, there is nothing that his office can do to help such
people because TDH case workers must abide by state
The community council hasn't had a program to cover this
need in the past, but the executive director of the council,
Caprice Cox, has formed a committee called the Reeves County
Medicine Chest which will be devoted to searching for
grants, finding private organizations concerned with
assisting people who can't afford their medications, and
coordinating church groups and other concerned citizens who
want to work together in finding a way to help provide
people with the medication they need.
Applications for help in obtaining prescription medicine
through one private company will become available locally by
Apr. 6 at the community council's offices at the Reeves
County annex building. That program requires applicants to
pay $5 for each prescription requested. The application fees
can be refunded if the applicant does not qualify for any
free medication, if the applicant requests the refund in
There are a few churches in the area that are helping people
to purchase the medications they need, but most only do so
on an intermittent basis, dependent upon their financial
capability. One local church, Abundant Life, regularly helps
to buy anti-seizure medicine for a member of its
congregation. They spend $135 to help pay for $300 worth of
a medication that is needed on a continuous basis.
Only one local religious organization, Zion Ministries, has
set up a program to help provide medicines to people of the
community. Since the founder of Zion Ministries, Elder Billy
R. Woodard, began the program a couple of weeks ago in
response to learning about the need for medication through a
newspaper story, members of the ministry have helped several
people in Reeves County with their medicinal needs.
During the 13-day period of March 19-31, Zion Ministries
spent $322.14 on 13 prescriptions for 5 people. One young
man received eight of the prescriptions, an eight-month
supply of medicines to treat the cancer he suffers. One
other person received two prescriptions, the other three
were supplied with one much-needed prescription medicine
Zion Ministries provides the medications by taking
applications from people who are referred to the church
through the indigent program at Reeves County Hospital and
having those prescriptions that are approved filled at a
local pharmacy. They are billed for the prescriptions they
provide on a monthly basis.
The Reeves County Medicine Chest, with the help of Cox, is
being created by a group of local citizens concerned with
filling the gaps in medical care between government programs
and private insurance that many people fall through when
they become ill.
The RCMC's organizational committee meets at Cox's office at
2 p.m. on Wednesdays and is looking for a few more members
to balance and guide the committee. They are specifically
seeking a doctor who would be willing to work with the group
to share knowledge of medical resources, a lawyer who would
be willing to sit on the committee and assist with legal
issues the organization may encounter to be able to
effectively help people and a member of the business
committee who is experienced in dealing with financial
matters and community relations.
According to Jim Soto from the Texas Department of Housing
and Community Affairs, Cox can use $1,500 from the Community
Services Block Grant to get the RCMC started. The committee
also plans to hold various fund raising activities in the
coming months, and to work with programs that pharmaceutical
companies already have in place to sponsor low-income
individuals with long-term needs for the medicines that the
"Cramming" scams target Spanish speakers
By GREG HARMAN
Just back in the office from campaigning to alert Spanish
speakers in the Brownsville and San Antonio areas to several
on-going telephone scams that seem to target Hispanics,
Katie Bohuslaz, spokesperson for the Public Utility
Commission, is asking phone customers to be wary.
Complaints filed with the Public Utility Commission, a state
agency regulating telecommunications and investor-owned
electric utilities in Texas, by Spanish-speaking customers
have increased 595 percent since September 1997.
"Cramming," a practice where some unethical phone companies
add unauthorized charges to one's phone bill, is not unique
to Hispanic customers. But it does happen.
Bohuslaz's advice is to read your phone bill carefully. "A
lot of problems happen when you don't understand what your
bill says," said Bohuslaz.
Be suspicious of collect calls from Mexico. Some
long-distance companies offering "free calls to the U.S."
actually dump heavy bills on the U.S. recipients of the
call, said Bohuslaz.
"First of all, you do not have to accept the call," she
said, "and you can demand how much the call will cost you
before you agree to accept the call." Also, it is a good
idea to ask out-of-country family to shop around for a good
rate before calling. There have been reports of prisoners in
Mexico making numerous collect calls out of boredom.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Univision, a
Spanish language broadcaster, the Hispanic market is
virtually exploding and the "average Hispanic's phone bill
accounts for 40 percent of all their monthly utility
"The PUC will not tolerate the fast-buck artists who target
Hispanic or low-income citizens for their get-rich-quick
schemes," said PUC Chairman Pat Wood III. "We will do all we
can to make sure they don't do business in Texas."
There are Spanish-speaking PUC employees who can help you
with any phone bill questions you may have, said Bohuslaz.
The toll-free number is 1-888-782-8477, or 1-888-PUC-TIPS.
Remember, when looking at your bill, if it sounds too good
to be true, it probably is.
PBT board lowers cheerleader standards
PECOS, April 3, 1998 - The Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board
lowered its standards regarding eligibility for the
cheerleading squad during its special meeting last night. In
the past, students had to be passing during the current
six-week grading period as well as the previous period and
have no more than one bad conduct mark per grading period to
be able to try out to be a cheerleader. Now, they merely
have to meet UIL (University Interscholastic League)
District superintendent Don Love recommended changing the
eligibility requirement so that more students would be able
to try out for cheerleading.
Pecos High School cheerleading sponsor, Sheryl Wyles,
addressed the board and stated that cheerleading tryouts
were scheduled for the next day (today) and asked the board,
if they decided to change the standard for next year, not
the next day. She also pointed out that the students have
known about the standards all year long.
Kim Calhoun, eighth-grade cheerleading sponsor, agreed that
timeliness was important, and stated that students at her
campus also have been aware of the standards throughout the
school year. She also pointed out that cheerleading is not a
However, the board, in action reminiscent of last year's
mid-year dress code changes, opted to adopt the UIL
standards for cheerleading. When the board changed the
district's dress code during the school year last year, the
action caused much confusion and debate, even a student
"I feel like we need to be as consistent and fair with all
our kids as possible," said Love.
One board member, vice president Alberto Alvarez was absent
from the meeting and one trustee, Freddy Lujan, abstained
from the vote. All other members of the board voted to make
So, anyone who was passing all of their classes at the end
of the last six-weeks grading period is eligible to audition
to cheerlead. If they fail a class after making the squad
but are passing at the three-week mark, they will regain
eligibility after an additional one-week grace period.
The school board officially decided not to renew the
contract of probationary employee Phillip Garrison, an
eighth-grade history teacher and coach, at the end of the
The board also voted unanimously to approve the resignations
of six current employees: Manuela Allen, AEP teacher; Mike
Farrell, PHS health teacher; Jim Jennings, earth science
teacher at Zavala Middle School; Alicia Leal, second-grade
teacher at Austin Elementary; Allen Wyles, algebra teacher
at PHS; and Sheryl Wyles, PHS special education teacher.
The board also voted to approve the sale of two used coach
buses, Eagle 1 and Eagle 2. Eagle 1 is a 1977 MCI Crusador
and Eagle 2 is a 1976 MCI Crusador. Eagle 3 will not be
offered for sale at this time.
Heater burns woman
By ROSIE FLORES
PECOS, April 3, 1998 - An elderly Pecos woman was listed in
fair to stable condition this morning at Reeves County
Hospital after she caught herself on fire Thursday evening,
according to assistant hospital administrator Nadine Smith.
Willie Mayes, 84, was to be transferred to a Lubbock
hospital today, according to Reeves County Hospital reports.
She was injured in an accident at her home late Thursday
evening. According to her niece, Willie Shorter, Mayes was
trying to light a heater when the fire flamed up setting her
hair on fire.
"She put the bedspread over her head, which was good, but it
still caught fire and burned her head and face," said
Mayes suffered first- and second-degree burns to both her
head and face.
The family will be waiting to see what Lubbock physicians
have to say before establishing a fund for Mayes, who is a
life-long Pecos resident. She was also a Pecos Enterprise
employee for many years, along with her husband Arthur, who
died in 1987.
April 3, 1998
Wayne Doggett, 58, of Lubbock, died Wednesday, April 1,
1998, in St. Mary Hospital.
Memorial services will be held at 2 p.m., Friday, at
Westmont Christian Church with the Rev. Keith Strain of Ada,
Okla., pastor of Westmont, officiating. Private burial will
be under direction of Sanders Funeral Home.
Doggett was born July 13, 1939, in Winters and grew up in
Pecos. He worked at Southwestern Bell and AT&T for 32 years,
was area manager for many years and retired in 1989. From
1989 to 1996, he owned and operated Rio Pecos Trading Co. in
Lubbock. He was an elder at Westmont Christian Church and a
member of the South American Explorers Club and the
Telephone Pioneers of America.
Survivors include: his wife, Jonny Hankins Doggett; two
daughters, Julie Wright and Stacey Blackburn of Lubbock; his
parents, W. C. "Bill" and Inez Doggett of Lubbock; two
brothers, Ronnie Doggett of Giddings and Bob Doggett of
Lubbock; and three grandchildren.
The family suggests memorials be made to the Chorus of
Angels program at the Joe Arrington Cancer Center, to
Hospice of Lubbock, P.O. Box 53276, Lubbock 79453, or to a
PECOS, April 3, 1998 - High Thursday, 69, low this morning,
40. A slow-moving Pacific cool front was two-thirds of the
way through South Texas this morning, extending from the Rio
Grande plains through the central coastal plains to the
College Station area. Behind the front, skies were clear
with temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Ahead of the front,
skies continued partly cloudy, with areas of dense fog and
temperatures in the 60s and 70s. The National Weather
Service said the weak front would be out of the state before
noon today. The weather service said skies should continue
sunny with temperatures warming into the 70s and 80s for
most of the weekend. Temperatures were generally in the 40s
and 50s across West Texas with mostly cloudy skies over the
panhandle and northerly winds 20 to 25 miles an hour and
gusty. Skies were clear over the remainder of West Texas
with westerly winds 10 to 15 miles an hour.
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