Tuesday AM June 12th, 2007
by: Ed Mayberry, June 12, 2007 5:06:00 am
May sales tax revenue increased ten percent in Texas, according to the state comptroller's office. The state collected $1.7 billion in sales tax revenue—up from $1.54 billion in May 2006. June payments to Texas cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts payments totaled $420 million—up from 5.5 percent from June 2006. The City of Houston received $35 million—up 4.15 percent from $33.6 million last year. The Metropolitan Transit Authority received $36.9 million—up 9.16 percent from 2006.
A new Associated Press calculation shows that compensation for America's top CEOs has skyrocketed into the stratospheric heights of pro athletes and movie stars. Half of the top business executives make more than $8.3 million a year, and some make much, much more. And even as their pay has increased, they haven't lost their perquisites, or perks--from personal flights on the corporate jet or yacht, to cars and drivers, to country club fees and home alarm systems. The total amount of "other compensation'' for CEOs last year was $169.2 million. The high cost of chief executive compensation has drawn criticism in recent years, but there are few signs of any investor backlash.
Halliburton's energy services group has been awarded a $35 million contract by Reliance Industries, according to the Houston Business Journal. The contracts are for its deep water sand control completion technology for two oil fields offshore of India. Halliburton will supply products and installation services for 18 wells and open hole gravel packs for 15 wells.
Schlumberger is announcing the launch of the Western Spirit, the seventh Q-Marine vessel to join its WesternGeco fleet. It will begin work immediately with a high-specification 4D survey in the North Sea for Statoil. It's the first of three new Q-Marine vessels that will join the fleet over the next two years. Q-Marine is WesternGeco's proprietary technology for enhanced reservoir-quality acquisition, processing and inversion.
Calgary, Canada-based Pyramid Petroleum is acquiring Houston-based Capco Energy for an undisclosed sum. The agreement makes Capco a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pyramid.
Tammany Oil & Gas has acquired Dominion Oklahoma Texas Exploration & Production's Gulf of Mexico Shelf Divestment Package, according to the Houston Business Journal. The Houston-based company said the sales package includes operated and non-operated properties in both state and federal waters.
India's largest natural gas importer is poised to sign a contract to import more liquified natural gas from Qatar to supply India's biggest gas-fired power plant in Dabhol. Petronet plans to start supplying gas to two generators in Dabhol in western India starting June 21st. The Dabhol power project was started by Enron in 1996, but has never worked at more than one-third of operating capacity because of Enron's collapse, disputes over power prices and a lack of gas for furnaces. It operates at 15 percent currently, burning the costlier oil product naphtha.
Salt Lake City-based DNA testing services provider Sorenson Genomics is acquiring Houston-based Identigene, according to the Houston Business Journal. Identigene will retain its name and remain in Houston. Itentigene is the first laboratory to perform commercial paternity testing, and it provides forensic DNA casework and relatedness testing services.
Retailers in the state's poorest areas sold about 50 percent more of the priciest Texas lottery tickets than retailers in the state's wealthiest areas over the past year. That's according to a San Antonio Express-News analysis of Texas Lottery Commission records. Retailers in the state's ten poorest zip codes sold more of the $10, $20, $25, $30 and $50 games than their counterparts in the ten richest zip codes. Taken alone, the $50 tickets--which went on sale May 7th--have sold faster in more affluent zip codes. But overall, per capita spending on the high-dollar tickets was $25 in the ten poorest zip codes versus $18 in the ten wealthiest. Critics say the state should do more to warn people about the long-odds of the games. Lottery officials say the zip code breakdown doesn't indicate that poor people are buying more of the expensive tickets. They say it's common for people to buy tickets in areas where they're just passing through.
The Supreme Court has strengthened a landmark anti-pollution program by enabling companies to recover costs when they voluntarily clean up hazardous material. In a unanimous ruling, the justices said the Federal Superfund law allows lawsuits to recover costs incurred in voluntary cleanups. The Bush administration had argued otherwise. The case involves a company that contracted with the U.S. government to retrofit rocket motors. Atlantic Research Corporation voluntarily cleaned up pollution from rocket propellent and later sued the government in an effort to recoup some of the cleanup costs.
A setback for Philip Morris, which was trying to cut down on the potential damages in a lawsuit filed by smokers. The Supreme Court ruled the company can't move the lawsuit from an Arkansas state court into a federal one. Philip Morris was hoping for the shift because state court juries are more likely to hand down devastatingly expensive awards. The court ruled it doesn't matter if Philip Morris is regulated by a federal body, it still has to face the music in state courts. The class-action suit accuses Philip Morris of arranging deceptive results in government approved testing so it would appear Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights had less tar and nicotine.
Dell will start selling a notebook computer model at Sam's Club warehouse stores this week. The move follows Dell's decision to begin selling two personal computer models at Wal-Mart stores. Wal-Mart owns Sam's Club. Dell spokesman David Frink says the computer maker will sell copies of the Inspiron 1501 at Sam's Club stores. The 1501 is a general-purpose notebook that Frink says is one of the company's most popular notebooks. He says Dell will announce deals with other retailers in the coming months. Until now, Dell has always relied on selling PCs and other products directly to consumers and business customers over the phone and Internet.
Five years ago, T. Boone Pickens started trying to sell water from beneath the vast empty spaces of west Texas. Since then, the billionaire oilman hasn't had any paying customers. Not one city or local agency has signed on. That's even after years of drought conditions and soaring water usage by Texas' booming population that's expected to more than double by 2060. But officials at Pickens' company aren't concerned--and water law experts say they shouldn't be, because the nation's second-most populous state is running low on water. The 2007 Texas Water Development Board's plan says the population is expected to increase demand by 27 percent by 2060--while water supply is expected to decrease by just 18 percent. Officials say that if Texas doesn't implement the plan, about 85 percent of the population won't have enough water in drought conditions. That would cost businesses and workers a projected $100 billion a year. There are similar concerns nationwide. According to a 2003 government accountability office report, 36 states expect shortages within ten years. That number that leaps to 46 under drought conditions.
Here are some facts and figures about the water supply in Texas, which officials say will face serious shortages by 2060: Texas has two sources for its water supply, groundwater and surface water. Groundwater lies in nine major and 20 minor aquifers beneath Texas that must be pumped to the surface to be transported to municipalities. In 2003, the most recent year for which figures are available, groundwater made up 59 percent of the state's water supply. According to state estimates based on current usage, that should fall to 46 percent by 2010 and 40 percent by 2060. Surface water comes mostly from 196 major reservoirs in Texas. Most were built after the brutal drought of the 1950s by state and federal agencies to assure supplies would be available for the next dry spell. Seventy-seven of the 196 make up 98 percent of the state's stored capacity and that serve scores of municipalities. Lawmakers recently passed a measure designating 19 potential reservoir sites around the state, but none of those will be built for at least 10 years, a water board official said.
China is putting a moratorium on projects to make ethanol from corn and other food crops. The state-run Xinhua news agency says producers have been told to switch to crops not widely eaten in China, such as sorghum. China is promoting ethanol in an effort to reduce reliance on imported oil, but worries that demand for raw material could push up food prices and the need for scarce farmland.
In light of recent recalls of tainted food, many consumers are growing more interested in knowing precisely where their strawberries, carrots and other produce come from. Now, they can find out in just a few seconds--using the Internet. Tracking technology called HarvestMark is sold to growers. They place their freshly picked fruit or vegetables into containers affixed with stickers displaying coded numbers. When consumers buy produce in the containers, they can go to the HarvestMark.com Web site. They can type in the 24-digit number and learn where the food was grown, when it was picked and which crew picked and packaged it. It all happens in about six seconds. The tracking system will be submitted for review to the Food and Drug Administration. The company behind HarvestMark, Redwood City, California-based YottaMark, manages growers' uploaded data. It began with containers for berry producers and has added carrot bags. Melons also can have stickers placed right on the rind. Corporate Express Incorporated is partnering with YottaMark and will distribute the technology. The tracking method has previously been used in the pharmaceutical and semiconductor industries.
Several architectural firms have been approached about designing the George W. Bush Presidential Library and tailoring it to the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas. It's another sign that the project is likely headed for SMU. The school has been the lone finalist for the Bush library since December. A solicitation proposal obtained by the Dallas Morning News tells designers the library will "be adjacent to the SMU campus'' and that the look must comply with the university's "distinct architectural character.'' A spokesman for Don Evans, the former Commerce Secretary who heads the library selection committee, said no final decision has been made. There is no word on when the committee will make its final decision on where to house the presidential library. But an architect could be chosen by early August. That's according to Milton Babbitt, vice president of 3-D/I, a firm hired by the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation to manage the project. If negotiations with SMU fail, the other remaining finalist is Baylor University in Waco.