Page 8


June 15, 1973 23 The Texas Legislature Observer Style Summer session classroom offer to students and faculty Six $11 ssues A selection of six recent issues, including this legislative summary issue, may be obtained for just $1 per order provided 10 or more orders are submitted at one time. The package of 10 or more sets of six issues will be mailed to a single person for redistribution. If you want to specify the six back issues to be in cluded in the packet, every effort will be made to comply with your preference as long as the issues remain in stock. There’s no need to specify the issues, however. You can count on us to supply you with a good selec tion of the Observer’s legislative coverage. We can bill you later in the semester. The Texas Observer 600 West 7 Austin, Tx 78701 gas is now 45 cents per mcf and that under the controlling provisions of contracts and law, “the state is entitled to receive the market price for its royalty gas at the time of the sale.” Therefore, the suit as filed says, the pilot plaintiff, Exxon, \(with other “is in violation of its lease contracts” with the state and the University of Texas and is in violation also of the applicable state laws. The suit seeks not less than half a million dollars from Exxon alone. Senator McKnight indicated the total once all the plaintiffs are accurately included may go to $30 million. Commissioner Armstrong, deliberately being more conservative, guesses $3 to $4 million, but the figures he recites show that he may be hoping for $6 million or so. Armstrong says UT regents Ed Clark and Allan Shivers were the most active in supporting the participation of UT in the lawsuit as plaintiffs. Exxon’s spokesman made a noncommittal statement that the suit raised a question of how to interpret the lease agreements. The suit suggests that one remedy might be for the state to take its royalties in kind that is, in natural gas and re-sell it on the open market at the going market price. In five or six gas fields this could be done physically by splitting the stream of the gas, the state physically taking and handling its share of it; in smaller fields the state would receive and market its share of the gas by paperwork. The “in kind” suggestion therefore almost, but does not quite, suggest the subject \(which I’ve brought up elsewhere, and is being considered in books and a Texas federal government producing and marketing their own oil in an operation analogous in respects to the TVA. While this dimension is an interesting latent relevancy of the lawsuit now filed by the state and the regents, it is not an import of it; all the state is doing is suing the oil and gas interests for gas royalties based on the ballooning market price of gas. But that is something. Novelty in the Lege What we can perceive in these two developments the class action consumer remedies act and the gas royalties lawsuit is a disposition within the new group of state officeholders, Governor Briscoe and Lieutenant Governor Hobby excepted, to represent the public interest when it is clearly in conflict even with the most powerful corporate interests. Speaker Price Daniel, while concentrating on political reforms, has also, in his threats to name names among the lobby and his condemnations of the Senate’s and Hobby’s manglings of the political reform bills, been testing out the public interest posture. This is a novelty in the Texas statehouse, which has been so absurdly controlled by the major corporate interests. Probably it has something to do with the 18-year-old vote; no doubt it is part of the Nader-inspired consumer movement and the general public disenchantment with the major corporations and politics-as-usual politicans. Discussing the new consumer remedies law, the Texas attorney general says, “I think it’s a good bill. I think you can classify it as a milestone for the consumers. . In the past, we [the state] haven’t had the tools.” And, “a lawyer can now afford to represent the consumer.” “We vigorously resisted the $10 amendment,” Hill says. “It was finally brought in on the class action feature. The bill undoubtedly was weakened by the $10 amendment. There was open opposition from many business interests. It wasn’t an anti-business bill at all. In fact, it has a lot of safeguards in it for the honest businessman.” Armstrong’s staff are now conducting an audit on state income from gas royalties. He says the major companies are taking the lawsuit in a matter-of-fact way, saying, in effect, ” ‘Okay, let’s figure out what it is we owe you, but we’re not just gonna roll over.’ ” Armstrong defends himself against charges that he has been slow to move in this matter, saying he found the attorney general’s office disinterested until Hill took office and had trouble getting people qualified to do the exacting technical work. In any event, he says, the state has not lost anything by the delay because the statute of limitations does not apply in this matter. Armstrong’s most interesting insight is implied, rather than specified: business interests are not outraged when public officials act affirmatively for the public interest; doing that is a public official’s duty, and businessmen understand this as well as anyone and do not take offense. This sanguine, this-is-just-routine approach is good politics, of course, but it will not hold if and when business interests decide a given official is carrying his loyalty to the public interest “too far.” None of the three new public-interest men in the state officeholders’ lineup, Hill, Armstrong or Daniel, is likely to go so far that the major corporations declare open war on them politically, but they have been trying something somewhat new for modern Texas, and it is interesting. Gunpoint on the riverbank Last April 12th Ms. Bob Holland of Crane, Tex., wrote Governor Briscoe: “I have recently had a most unusual experience and seek your help in obtaining some important information. “My husband and I were in San Marcos, Tex., visiting our son, who is a student at Southwest Texas State University, this past