To give you a sense of how prevalent an issue this is in the state, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) rated Texas’ drinking water infrastructure a D+ and wastewater infrastructure a D. According to the ASCE 2017 Texas Infrastructure Report Card, “Texas’ infrastructure lacks funding, proper maintenance, and is poorly equipped to deal with environmental change as Texas continues to grow.”That is where we come in to invest in the future of your water sustainability.Over the past four years alone, SouthWest Water Company has invested approximately $50 million on water and wastewater system upgrades across the state to serve our customers.That is in addition to the cost of employing hundreds of Texans, maintaining specialty equipment, renewing certifications, regulatory monitoring and testing, and conducting administrative work to stay safe and maintain compliance as a utility. And Texas is a big state with a lot of ground to cover and dirt to move. But it is important for us all to remember, although we do not own the water, and neither do you, we are all responsible for it. As a full service utility, our job is to deliver safe and reliable water you can feel confident drinking and using, and providing environmentally friendly wastewater treatment.As Texans, we can each conserve water and pay special attention to what we are putting into our rivers and lakes. Together we can keep our community safe and hydrated.When you think of what you pay each month to get a clean supply of water for drinking, appliances, bathing and cleaning, the cost of that service is certainly a consideration, but it is important to also think of the value.Water and wastewater utilities are essentially delivering water on demand and safely taking away the used water so you do not have to deal with it. Think of the packages and groceries that are delivered to your home, for example. You pay for that service each time you use it—and you have to wait.I have spent my career working across North America in the water utility industry, and I can tell you this is essential work that is complex and difficult, and I could not be more proud of our employees.From engineers and operators in the field to our office teams, I cannot think of one person who is looking for recognition for this work.I can confidently say that each and every one of my colleagues acts with humility to provide this basic resource to our communities and does so with a commitment not only to safety but also to continually increasing value to our customers.The next time you turn on your sink, fill up the tub, flush a toilet, or sit back and watch the sprinklers water your yard, remember the journey that water has made to your home and back to the environment. It is our privilege to play a part in that journey, providing Texans with safe, reliable water that you can trust. How hard can it be to treat, store and pipe water into our homes and businesses? What you may not know is that water and wastewater are the most expensive utilities to build and maintain. There are dozens of processes all water must undergo to be safe for your consumption.The hundreds of water lines in your neighborhood alone require intensive maintenance and — eventually — replacement to function as you expect.When a company like ours assumes control of a service area, the underlying infrastructure (the basic physical structures and facilities needed for operation) is often in disrepair due to poor upkeep or simply being decades old. The process of turning groundwater and surface water into safe water for your home is complex and goes largely unseen.Jeffrey L. McIntyreUnlike electricity, which you can see coming to your home through power lines, and natural gas, which can have a distinctive smell, water is processed and delivered out of sight and typically underground.It is only natural to think of water like the air we breathe. After all, water rains down from the sky and fills the waterways and lakes near our homes. Jeffrey L. McIntyre is president of Texas Utilities at SouthWest Water Company. For more information, log onto swwc.com.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) is urging Vermont’s dairy farmers to take advantage of US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s decision to extend for a week the signup period for the new dairy farm production price insurance program created under the 2014 Farm Bill.Vilsack on Wednesday afternoon announced that the signup deadline for the new Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) will be extended to December 5, 2014, and that the comment period for the new MPP-Dairy rule would be extended until December 15, 2014.Leahy said, “This extension is good and useful news for dairy farmers in Vermont and across the country who are weighing their options and still learning about the new Margin Protection Program for Dairy. USDA and the University of Vermont Extension Service have worked hard to help educate farmers across our state, and we all recognize that farmers will need more time. This will give them more time to study their options and make informed decisions on signing up for this new risk management tool.”Leahy has encouraged dairy producers to use the online MPP-Dairy web tool at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/mpptool(link is external) to determine the best coverage levels for their farms. Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a conferee on the Farm Bill, pushed to ensure that the web tool was authorized and funded in this year’s Farm Bill to allow farmers to review past market scenarios to help them better understand how the new program would help if poor market conditions arise in the dairy sector. The web tool is run on a secure website that can be accessed by computers, tablets and smartphones.Leahy has also urged dairy farmers, especially new and beginning farmers, to consider submitting public comments on the Margin Protection Program rule that will guide the program’s future.“All dairy farmers in Vermont, including beginning farmers, and those who plan to become dairy farmers, have the opportunity to help shape this program to ensure that it will work for the next generation of farmers,” Leahy said. “Parents hoping to bring their children into their operations in the coming years should consider commenting about how this safety net should cover potential growth in their production. It is important that this program not hinder inter-generational growth, and that it does not encourage gaming of the program or excess production that runs counter to market signals. The Agriculture Department needs to hear from dairy producers, and especially our young co-op members and those future farmers considering a return to their family farms.”Source: Leahy 10.29.2014
Basket of fried chicken. Courtesy/Trivia GeniusTrivia Genius News:The origin of fried chicken has never really been clear to anyone. It has possible antecedents everywhere, from Southeast Asia to Scotland to West Africa.But the oldest recipe anyone has found for a reasonably understandable fried chicken is from British cookbook author Hannah Glasse’s “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy”, first published in the 1740s.In her book, she suggests skinning and cutting up a chicken; covering it in a mixture of egg yolks, flour, and spices; and then frying it.Although she didn’t call her dish “fried chicken”, her recipe is believed to have influenced subsequent recipes for fried chicken in America.Today it is generally agreed that modern fried chicken is an American invention that combined the fricassees of European cooking and cooking methods and styles of enslaved African Americans.Source: First We Feast
APGA sent a letter to Senators Barrasso, Hoeven, McCain and Murkowski to express opposition to their legislation, the North Atlantic Energy Security Act. While the legislation would expedite natural gas production on federal lands, the bill would also expand liquefied natural gas (LNG) export capabilities to Ukraine, Japan, and NATO member states, none of which have free trade agreements with the U.S.In its letter, APGA highlighted that any expansion of LNG exports will raise domestic gas prices on manufacturers, households, and utilities, and there is no guarantee that any exported LNG will be sold to the nations that the legislation is targeting because U.S. gas will be sold where the price is highest, not where politicians want it to be sold.Study after study has shown that exporting any amount of LNG from the U.S. will raise the domestic cost of natural gas on homes and businesses. APGA believes that consumers should not be subjected to high energy prices and price volatility. The extreme weather during the winter of 2014 illustrated the crucial need to keep U.S. energy resources available and affordable for U.S. citizens. If all facilities were constructed, daily domestic production of natural gas would have to increase by 55 percent in order to meet export demands and keep natural gas prices at their current levels.APGA’s letter also points out that foreign countries that have made the poor energy policy decision to prohibit advanced production techniques, or to simply not develop their own natural gas resources, should not be bailed out by U.S. citizens. The U.S. should focus on exporting technology and best practices to our foreign allies to help free them from their dependence on natural gas from hostile nations. Press Release, August 8, 2014; Image: APGA
The Solicitors Regulation Authority will not go ahead with a proposed ban on solicitors using unrated professional indemnity insurers, the regulator confirmed today.The organisation consulted for two months earlier this year on imposing a minimum B-plus rating for insurers participating in the solicitors’ PII market.The move was intended to provide clients with more certainty after high-profile collapses of unrated insurers. But opponents of the measure warned a ban would stifle competition, increase premiums and force smaller law firms out of business.The decision not to go ahead with a minimum rating was announced as part of a wider announcement of reform of regulation in the legal services sector.The SRA said it had ‘decided not to implement the proposed change at this time, but will keep this under review’.A full response to the consultation is expected to be published later today.But the SRA will be expected to answer how it intends to protect consumers in future from current arrangements which it has said ‘leave the market vulnerable to further large-scale entry by unrated insurers followed by rapid and unplanned exit with no guarantee that clients will be protected’.The decision to drop the plans will come as a relief to the thousands of firms currently with unrated insurers, many of which were facing premium increases of up to 15% to cover the cost of their insurer securing a rating.But the uncertainty may have helped to increase concerns about firms insured with unrated providers. One major building society having already decided to drop any such firms from its conveyancing panel.The regulator has opened four separate consultations as part of paper entitled Approach to Regulation and its Reform which it states ‘provides the foundation for significant change in the way the SRA regulates’.Consultations cover:Changes to enable increased entry of multi-disciplinary alternative business structures to the market;Reform to the arrangements for compulsory PII to look again at the minimum requirements for firms;Changes to compensation arrangements;Amending the requirements for accountants’ reports on client accounts to reduce the cost of current arrangements.The SRA has said it intends to bring forward a package of measures to reduce regulatory burdens on small firms and to increase the level of support from the authority. It will be talking with solicitors, firms and representative bodies on the contents of this package and intends to publish proposals in the summer.The regulator is also considering changes to the separate business rule to provide greater freedom to all regulated firms about how they structure their businesses whilst maintaining appropriate levels of consumer protection.It intends to publish a consultation paper in November and implement changes in April 2015.Charles Plant, chair of the SRA’s board, said: ‘We are determined to regulate in a way which maintains the core professional principles and which enables good, committed, lawyers and firms to meet the diverse legal needs of an increasing number of consumers.‘We have set out the approach we will take in order to provide clarity for those we regulate, for the legal services market more widely, and for consumers.‘I believe this programme will deliver a system that achieves our fundamental purpose of protecting consumers and supporting the proper administration of justice, and do so in a more proportionate and targeted way. In the process we will remove unnecessary regulatory barriers and burdens.’