AUSTIN — Mayors, county judges and emergency management officials in communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey received letters last week from Gov. Greg Abbott, urging them to take advantage of available funding.

Some $500 million in funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program are available now, Abbott said. These funds are in addition to the more than $10 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds approved by Congress and awarded to Texas earlier this year.

“The hazard mitigation funds available today can provide immediate relief and resiliency to your community,” Abbott wrote. “As of today, the Texas Department of Emergency Management has received only seven complete applications from the entire region impacted by Hurricane Harvey. That means hundreds of millions of dollars that are available to Texas communities today are not being put to use.”

Abbott reminded the officials that local governments would not be obligated to pay the typical 25 percent local cost share for hazard mitigation grants and that $600 million of additional hazard mitigation funds will become available in four months.

Hazard mitigation funds can be used for purposes such as: 

— Buyouts and elevations of flood-prone properties; 

— Drainage and reservoir projects that eliminate future flooding; 

— Projects to lessen the frequency or severity of flooding; 

— Flood risk reduction projects such as dams, retention basins, levees and flood walls; and

— Large-scale channeling of waterways.

Chiefs support proposal

The Texas Railroad Commission on April 26 joined the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Public Utility Commission of Texas in submitting comments on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan adopted under the Obama administration in 2015. 

A letter signed by the executive directors of the three state agencies supports the EPA’s proposed repeal of “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Electric Utility Generating Units,” known as the Clean Power Plan. 

On April 27, Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a joint letter to the EPA, praising its plan to repeal the plan. They said it “failed to produce evidence of greenhouse gases dangerous enough to necessitate federal regulation.” 

Abbott says pay for it

Gov. Abbott on April 25 sent a letter to former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, demanding that he cover costs for an upcoming emergency special election for the 27th Congressional District of Texas. 

Abbott ordered the election to fill the seat made vacant by Farenthold’s recent resignation.

“While you have publicly offered to reimburse the $84,000 in taxpayer funds you wrongly used to settle a sexual harassment claim, there is no legal recourse requiring you to give that money back to Congress,” Abbott wrote. “I am urging you to give those funds back to the counties in your district to cover the costs of the June 30, 2018, special election. This seat must be filled, and the counties and taxpayers in the 27th Congressional District should not again pay the price for your actions,” Abbott added.

Farenthold, whose tenure in U.S. House began in January 2011, resigned from office effective April 6.

Paxton welcomes ruling

Attorney General Paxton on April 27 applauded a 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that upholds Senate Bill 5, Texas’ voter ID law.

“The court rightly recognized that when the Legislature passed Senate Bill 5 last session, it complied with every change the 5th Circuit ordered to the original voter ID law,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy. The revised voter ID law removes any burden on voters who cannot obtain a photo ID.”

SB 5 allows registered voters without one of the seven state-approved forms of photo identification to cast an in-person ballot by signing a sworn declaration of reasonable impediment stating why they could not obtain photo ID.

May is awareness month

The Texas Department of Transportation’s “Share the Road: Look Twice for Motorcycles” campaign is urging drivers to watch for motorcycles, as crashes killed 501 and seriously injured another 2,101 motorcyclists in Texas last year.

TxDOT’s campaign is part of National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in May.

“Nobody wants to take a life in a crash or lose a loved one,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “Motorcycles are small, they’re hard to see, and it can be difficult to judge their speed and distance. That’s why it’s critical that drivers take extra precautions to look twice for motorcycles, especially at intersections.”