Paxton trial completes first week
The first week of suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial in the Senate ended with his former lead law enforcement officer testifying an Austin developer alleged to have bribed Paxton constructed a “conspiracy theory” that federal officials altered a search warrant for his property, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
David Maxwell, the former AG official, said real estate developer Nate Paul pushed Paxton to investigate federal law enforcement agencies probing his business. Paul has since been indicted for inflating his assets on loan applications. Paxton aides looked into Paul’s allegations at Paxton’s request but concluded they were meritless.
“My feeling was Nate Paul was a criminal and we should not be associating with Nate Paul,” Maxwell testified.
Maxwell was ultimately fired by Paxton for insubordination after he resisted investigating Paul’s allegations.
Paxton blames the impeachment on his political opponents. He appeared on the first day of the trial but has not been in the Senate chamber since then.
Appeals court: Buoys can stay for now
A federal appeals court last week stayed a federal district judge’s ruling that the floating barrier installed by the state in the Rio Grande to stem illegal entry by migrants violated federal law and treaties.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily halted U.S. District Judge David Ezra’s order that the 1,000-foot barrier near Eagle Pass be removed by Sept. 15, pending an as-yet unscheduled hearing.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed the lawsuit, saying the buoys violated an 1899 federal law that forbids unauthorized construction in navigable waterways, The Dallas Morning News reported. Gov. Greg Abbott argued the river is too shallow to be navigable and that an “invasion” of migrants and drug smugglers made it necessary for the state to defend itself.
“Texas has clear constitutional authority to defend its territory against the invasion that Governor Abbott has declared,” the state told the lower court last week. Ezra rejected that argument, saying by that reasoning the state could declare an invasion and wage war at will.
Mexican authorities have lodged formal diplomatic complaints, and critics of the buoys in the United States called them inhumane.
ERCOT calls for power
conservation; break in heat predicted
For the first time this summer, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas last week declared an emergency, introducing the possibility of rolling blackouts to stabilize the state’s power grid.
A sudden drop in power reserves last Wednesday night caused the system to lose more power than expected, prompting the first emergency alert since Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, according to kut.org.
The emergency lasted about two hours, though the next day, for the 11th time, ERCOT asked Texans to conserve power as continued extreme heat pushed electric usage close to its capacity.
Texans have experienced the second-hottest summer on record, the Texas Tribune reported, with an average temperature of 85.3 degrees between June and the end of August. That average is just behind the record set in 2011, when blistering heat and dry conditions pushed the average temperature to 86.8 degrees, and wildfires swept the state.
The good news is that the heat wave is expected to finally break this week, with rain expected and temperatures dropping down well below the triple digits that much of the state has weathered since June.
Crypto miner gets $31 million to cut energy use
The cryptocurrency mining company Riot, located in what was once an Alcoa power plant in Rockdale, was paid $31 million in August to cut its energy use, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Cryptocurrency mining requires vast amounts of electricity to power computers, and the facility in Rockdale is North America’s largest bitcoin mine.
“August was a landmark month for Riot in showcasing the benefits of our unique power strategy,” Jason Les, CEO of Riot, said in a news release last week.
Les said the company raked in $31.7 million in energy credits from ERCOT by cutting its power use by more than 95 percent during periods of peak demand. The state offers payouts to bitcoin mining companies during periods of peak demand but also expects them to use more power when supply exceeds demand.
Texas prisons on complete lockdown
An increase in drug-related violence at state prisons prompted the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to issue a statewide lockdown of all 100 prison facilities, the Texas Tribune reported. No visitors will be allowed until a system-wide search for illegal drugs and other contraband is completed.
“The safety of inmates, staff, and the public is our highest priority,” said Cris Love, TDCJ’s inspector general. “Illegal drugs within our facilities will not be tolerated. Individuals found smuggling contraband will be arrested and subject to prosecution.”
A spokesperson for the agency said there has been a rise in prison violence, including 16 homicides thus far this year — more than double all last year.
Agency officials did not provide an estimate for how long the lockdown would last.
Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches, Lufkin and Cedar Park. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org