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The Lead: CPRIT’s Trickle-Down Funding Troubles, Oil Field Thefts

Texas Tribune

Good morning, and happy Presidents Day. KUT News has a look at what’s open and closed today: all City of Austin’s administrative offices and other city are closed today, but trash, recycling and yard trimmings pick up will proceed as normal.  

The National Weather Service says Austin’s in for a warm, muggy day with a chance of thunderstorms this afternoon. High winds will make for elevated fire conditions, so be careful out there. 

Lead Story: The troubles roiling the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) are spreading to other research groups, The Texas Tribune reports.

With its grant and review policies under investigation, CPRIT is currently prohibiting from dispensing grants. The Tribune reports:

The moratorium placed on CPRIT grants in December has put the distribution of $182.6 million — including $71.8 million to bring additional research teams to Texas and $16.2 million for cancer prevention services — on hold. As a result, Texas universities are scrambling to keep renowned cancer researchers who were promised millions of dollars to move their labs to Texas. And advocacy groups fear they will be forced to dismantle cancer prevention programs. “All of the momentum that we’ve worked for in the last two to three years will just be lost if those funds abruptly go away,” said Leticia Goodrich, executive director of the Amarillo Area Breast Health Coalition, which has increased the number of cancer screenings provided to impoverished women by 400 percent with a CPRIT grant that expires in June. “It gives us no time to build our program towards becoming self-sustaining.”

A bill calling for stricter oversight at CPRIT is currently working its way thorough the Texas Legislature, after clearing a key Senate panel.

Theft on the Oil Fields: Texas is in the midst of a historic oil and gas boom. And thieves seem to have noticed.

StateImpact Texas reports the expensive equipment involved in oil and gas operations like fracking costs drillers millions each year:

In West Texas, county police estimated that reported theft of oil field equipment was costing drillers there at least $20 million a year. In 2008, police teamed with the FBI to form the Permian Basin Oilfield Task Force. Figures released by the FBI last year showed the task force had won 39 convictions and recovered about $18 million. In some of the cases, prosecutors used a statue that makes it a Federal crime to damage an “energy facility.” Maximum prison term: 20 years. But the crime continues.

You can read more at StateImpact Texas.

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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