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Texans pay higher natural gas prices

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By Jan White
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For many Texans, the new year ushered in a wave of colder weather and, with it, the burden of increased pricing for heating sources like natural gas.

Data released in early December of 2021 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a rise in inflation, with consumer prices in November increasing 6.8% over the previous year. And the cost of utility gas service was 25.1% higher in November than it was one year ago. 

With the pandemic came increased instability in supply and demand for energy. As a result of supply lagging behind demand, consumers face energy prices up 33.3% over the 2020 levels. In 2021, residential natural gas prices spiked to levels not seen since 2008. 

Using the most recent full year of data available, an analysis by Commodity.com ranked the cost (dollars per million BTU) of average residential gas prices per state in 2020. From the most expensive to the least expensive, Texas ranked 21 out of the 50 states. On average, Texans paid $11.22 per million BTU, compared to $10.40 at the national level. Hawaii ranked #1 as most costly, paying $36.40, while Idaho paid the least, at $6.49 per million BTU.

In parts of the U.S. where natural gas prices are high, including the South and Northeast, natural gas consumption per capita tends to be much lower. It is anticipated that these current elevated prices could lead utilities and consumers to find more efficient and affordable energy sources, especially in those areas where natural gas is already expensive.

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Texas Primary Election deadlines approaching

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Vote GraphicFrom Enterprise Staff

There are a number of deadlines approaching to vote in the March 1 Texas Primary Election.

January 1 was the first day Texans could apply to vote by mail in the 2022 elections. Voters who are over 65 or disabled and wish to vote by mail must apply every year. Voters who will be absent from the county during early voting and Election Day must apply for each election in which they want to vote by mail. The application deadline is Feb. 18 for the Texas Primary Election.

Voters must use the new application for ballot by mail (ABBM) available at their county election office or from the Texas Secretary of State’s website votetexas.gov.  Alternatively, voters may print the vote by mail application in English or Spanish. Applications must be received (not postmarked) at your county election office by the application deadline which is Feb. 18.

This year there is a new eligibility requirement to be able to vote by mail in Texas. If one is expecting to give birth within three week before or after election day, they are available to vote by mail.

The last day to register to vote for the 2022 Texas Primary Elections is Jan. 31. There is a new voter registration application that eligible Texans may print, fill out and turn in to their county voter registrar to register to vote.

Voters who are already registered to vote in Texas may update their voter registration online if they moved within the state or changed their name. The voter will need a Texas driver’s license or personal identification card, their Social Security card and voter registration card VUID (voter unique identifier) number. Voters may find their4 VUID number on their voter registration card, by calling their county voter registrar or at votetexas.gov “Am I Registered?” by inputting their name, county and date of birth.

Another new change is that Texans who apply for a Texas driver’s license may apply to register to vote at the same time. When Texans update their driver’s license online, they may update their voter registration at the same time.

Early voting begins Feb. 14 and will conclude Feb. 25.

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Three indicted for timber theft

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Timber Graphic

From Enterprise Staff

Three suspects were indicted by a Liberty County grand jury Dec. 15 on the charge of engaging in organized criminal activity, a second-degree felony. Anthony Major, Willie Johnson and Roderick Parks are accused of conspiring together to steal $102,776.76 of timber revenue through their employer, Alvin Laird Logging of Livingston.

Timber theft can take a variety of forms—from harvesting timber without the landowner’s knowledge or consent, to entering into a formal agreement and not paying them the full purchase price and even stealing timber from logging companies.

In October 2019, the Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement Department was contacted by a harvesting contractor after suspecting one of his employees of stealing timber from his logging jobs. After an investigation was conducted, supporting evidence was found that the defendants, all truck drivers for Alvin Laird Logging, were selling timber, harvested from the Laird’s logging sites, to a Corrigan mill under a third-party contract, then obtaining the revenues in cash without the consent of Laird or the landowners.

Major and Johnson were arrested under warrant on Nov. 8, 2021 and Parks on Nov. 18, 2021. The case was turned in to Liberty County District Attorney Jennifer Bergman who brought the case before a grand jury. After hearing testimonies, the grand jury decided that there was probable cause for the three to be charged with a felony of the second degree.

“Without the cooperation and high integrity of Alvin Laird, we would not have a case,” Josh Mizrany, an investigator with Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement Department, said. “I have heard of cases like this in the timber industry, where the employer just fires the employee and doesn’t take the case to law enforcement, then the employee just goes to work for someone else to do the same thing. Alvin Laird’s actions are a main component to justice being served.”

There were numerous victims identified in the investigation as the logging contractor was a sub-contractor under another company and working for sever landowners. The three suspects could face from two to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine not to exceed $10,000 if convicted.

Meanwhile, Mizrany can’t stress enough the importance of involving Texas A&M Forest Service in any case of suspected timber fraud or timber theft.

“Timber theft is more common than most people realize,” Mizrany said. “If you believe fraud is occurring with your timber agreement, contact the Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement Department immediately as we work diligently with local officials to help bring those responsible for timber theft and other violations of the natural resource code to justice.”

If you are unfamiliar with selling timber, you are urged to contact your local Texas A&M Forest Service office. Agency field staff will assist you with securing the assistance of a professional resource manager to help select trees for harvest, estimate values and find potential buyers.

For more information, visit https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/lawenforcement/reporttimbertheft/ or to report suspected timber theft activities, call the timber theft hotline at 1-800-364-3470.

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PCSO warns of new scam

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Scam Graphic

From Enterprise Staff

Law enforcement agencies have received complaints of someone falsely representing themselves as the local power company.

Citizens have reported the incident occurs over the telephone, with the scammer claiming the resident has not paid their recent power company bill or that the bill arrived late. They are directed to immediately send in a certain amount of money to avoid electricity being cut off from their homes.

Other counties have received similar reports from citizens. 

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has broadcast messages via social media urging citizens against responding to these phone calls. The resident should phone their respective power company at their standard telephone number to confirm any such calls concerning late or no payment. Such scam calls should also be reported to your local law enforcement agency.

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Helicopter crash inquiry ongoing

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helicopter crash

By Emily Banks Wooten
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The investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) into the Dec. 30 helicopter crash that killed a local man and injured three others is ongoing.

Danny King, 54 of Livingston, was pronounced dead at the scene following a helicopter crash that occurred shortly before noon Dec. 30 near Galloway Lane and Hwy. 146 in Livingston. King’s sons, Brady, 26, and Brock, 23, were transported to St. Luke’s Health Memorial Hospital in Livingston with nonincapacitating injuries.

The pilot of the Bell 206B Rotorcraft helicopter, John Randolph “Randy” Martin, 73 of Montgomery, was transported to a hospital out of town with critical injuries.

Texas Department of Public Safety secured the scene and notified the FAA.

Funeral services for King are slated for 10 a.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church in Livingston. Visitation will be held from 5-7 p.m. Friday, also at First Baptist Church.

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