SEJ's 22nd Annual Conference Agenda — Thursday




Day Tours
Independent Hospitality Receptions
Exhibit Sneak Peek



Agenda Coverage Lodging/Transportation Exhibits/Receptions Environmental News About Lubbock


Thursday, October 18, 2012

All sessions, as well as registration, exhibits and breaks, will be at the Overton Hotel
and Conference Center, 2322 Mac Davis Lane, Lubbock, unless otherwise indicated.


5:00 - 10:00 a.m.

If you haven't already signed up for the Friday dinner and premiere of Ken Burn's Dust Bowl documentary, Saturday party or Sunday brunch, check with registration personnel — there might still be room.

Location: South End Prefunction Space, Main Floor (near the stairs as you approach the Sunset Ballroom from the hotel)


SEJ Information Table

All Day

Sign up here for Saturday mini-tours, read up on candidates for the board election, find membership applications, copies of SEJournal and other SEJ information.

Location: Sunset Ballroom Foyer, near the main outside entrance of the Conference Center


The Barnes and Noble at Texas Tech Bookstore

5:00 - 9:00 p.m.

The TTU bookstore will be open for business with the independent hospitality receptions, selling books by speakers and SEJ members. Stop by and browse! Be there from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. when authors will gather at the bookstore suite for a book signing.

Location: Sunset Ballroom


Vehicle Technology Demo

5:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Sign up here to test-drive new technology in the auto industry, and talk with experts from GM, Nissan and Volkswagen.

Location: Sunset Ballroom Foyer, near the main outside entrance of the Conference Center


Day Tours

Advance registration and a fee are required for all Thursday tours. Registered tour attendees should report to the staging no later than 15 minutes before their scheduled departure time to begin boarding their bus. All tours depart promptly at times listed below. Buses will return to the Overton Hotel about 5:00 p.m.

All buses will stage and depart from the Overton's north parking lot. (Exit through doors at far end of first floor hallway near Sunset Ballroom and SEJ Info Table.)

Due to morning-of cancellations or available space, some tours may be able to take standby passengers the morning of departure. Standby passengers should report 30 minutes prior to departure and have the proper fee amount available in cash. Standby passengers will be admitted on a first-come/first-served basis if or when space becomes available.

The Overton's Pecan Grill (and corresponding coffee kiosk) opens for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. For those leaving on earlier tours, the Overton is providing a "cash and carry" kiosk in the first floor hallway near the SEJ Info Table by north parking lot doors.


1. From Stones to the Stars at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

(5:00 a.m. departure, $40 fee, includes breakfast and lunch)

Temple of the Sun, Big Room Route, Carlsbad Cavern.
NPS photo by Peter Jones.

Like buried treasure, hundreds of caves are hidden beneath the rugged, desert landscape of the Guadalupe Mountains. This trip will tour Carlsbad Cavern, with its enormous chambers, such as the 8-acre Big Room, and beautiful cave “decorations” — from massive, 60-foot-tall stalagmites to crystals, delicate as snowflakes. A World Heritage Site, the caves spur the imaginations of all who visit, including researchers who study the unusual acidic process that hollowed the limestone, the 400,000 resident bats, cave conservation methods, and unique, newly discovered microbes, called extremophiles, which may help us cure diseases and recognize life on other planets. Coverage.

Total drive time — 7 hours. Available for those with physical limitations, the tour will use elevators and paved trails. The cave is 56 degrees Fahrenheit; long sleeves are recommended. To limit the spread of bat disease white-nose syndrome, clothing or equipment, such as cameras and flashlights, which have been in another cave since 2006 will not be permitted unless they are properly laundered or cleaned. Consult the park’s website for more information.

Tour Leaders:
Stella Davis, Staff Writer, Carlsbad Current-Argus
Angela Posada-Swafford, Science Writer, U.S. Senior Science Correspondent, MUY INTERESANTE Magazine
Randi Ross, Content Manager, Hollywood Circle Magazine

Stan Allison, Cave Specialist, Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Hazel Barton, Associate Professor of Biology, Geology and Environmental Science, University of Akron
Fabian Carvallo Vargas, Independent Journalist, Radio Producer and Trainer
Pam Cox, Supervisory Park Ranger, Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Marina Fisher-Phelps, PhD Student and Bat Researcher, Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University
Tigga Kingston, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University
Marie Marek, Chief of Interpretation and Education, Carlsbad Caverns National Park
David Nimkin, Senior Director, Southwest Region, National Parks Conservation Association
Kaitlin Thogmartin, Bat Research Assistant, Texas Tech University
George Veni, Executive Director, National Cave and Karst Research Institute


2. Wind Power's Past, Present and Future

(6:00 a.m. departure, $35 fee, includes lunch)

We’ll tour the American Wind Power Center in Lubbock and learn how wind power helped open the frontier. Then we’ll head out to the wind farming region of Kermit, Texas for insights into the present and future of the wind industry. In Kermit we’ll visit Xtreme Power, the world’s largest wind battery storage project, and see other features of the 153-megawatt Notrees Windpower Project. Wildlife and safety issues will be a particular concern. Like wind power, vineyards have been popping up across ranch country, too, similarly bringing diversified income to farm communities. We’ll unwind on the way back with a tour of the fabled High Plains wineries. Total drive time — 5 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Kate Galbraith, Energy Reporter, The Texas Tribune
Bill Kovarik, Author, Brilliant: Exploring the History of Renewable Energy, and Professor of Communication, Radford University

Dusty Choate, Independent Wind Miller
Coy Harris, Executive Director, American Wind Power Center
Casey Hayes, Manager, Notrees Wind Farm, Duke Energy Corporation
Ed Hellman, Professor of Viticulture, Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University
Colin Meehan, Clean Energy Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund
Kenneth Starcher, Associate Director, Training, Education and Outreach, Alternative Energy Institute, West Texas A&M University
Robert Weatherford, President, Save Our Scenic Hill Country
Julie Wicker, Habitat Assessment Biologist, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department


3. From Nuclear Enrichment to Nuclear Waste

(6:30 a.m. departure, $35 fee, includes lunch)

The nuclear fuel cycle, from mining to low-level waste, is handled by a variety of specialized facilities. Urenco, Ltd. opened a nuclear enrichment facility near the New Mexico/Texas border in 2010. The plant separates uranium isotopes to the level required for power plants, then ships it off to the fuel fabricators to make rods. With all the talk about Iran and nuclear enrichment, this is your opportunity to understand just how the process works. We’ll also tour Waste Control Specialists (WCS), a facility recently licensed to accept low-level radioactive waste. Questions about safety issues and threats to the local water supply have been raised by environmental groups and local citizens. U.S. citizens only, and official government ID needed to enter facility. Total drive time — 4 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Loretta Williams, Independent Public Radio Journalist
Roger Witherspoon, Independent Journalist, and Energy Writer and Automotive Columnist,

Rodney Baltzer, President, Waste Control Specialists LLC
Linda Beach, Vice President, Waste Control Specialists
Brenda Brooks, Director of Community Affairs, Urenco USA
Ron Chesser, Director, Center for Environmental Radiation Studies and Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University
Marisa Perales, Attorney, Lone Star Sierra Club, and Partner, Lowery, Frederick, Perales, Allmon & Rockwell
Len Wert, Deputy Regional Administrator for Operations, Region II, Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Matthew White, Mayor, Eunice, New Mexico


4. "Clean" Coal and Environmental Justice in a West Texas Town

(7:00 a.m. departure, $35 fee, includes lunch)

Odessa was once on the front lines of environmental justice. Heavy industry polluted the town's minority neighborhoods. Now the dirtiest plants are gone and the air is cleaner. But a new "clean coal" plant is going in, subsidized by a $450 million U.S. Department of Energy grant and $1 billion from Chinese investors. Backers say emissions will be small, but the plant also will manufacture side products, including fertilizer. The project will sell power to San Antonio, helping to replace polluting plants in lower-income neighborhoods there. What's the environmental footprint of "clean" energy — and is it just shifting impacts elsewhere? We'll hear from community organizers and the plant's builders, and we'll tour a working Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) site. Total drive time — 4 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Tony Davis, Environmental Reporter, Arizona Daily Star
Greg Harman, Editor, San Antonio Current

Gene Collins, President, Odessa Branch, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Bob Kiker, Petroleum Geologist and President, Applied Petroleum Technology Academy
Larry Melton, Mayor, Odessa, Texas
Laura Miller, Director of Projects, Texas Clean Energy Project
Tom "Smitty" Smith, Director, Texas Office, Public Citizen


5. Oil and Gas and Lizards: Hydraulic Fracturing 2.0

(7:30 a.m. departure, $35 fee, includes lunch)

Dunes Sagebrush Lizard. Photo by Michael T. Hill/USFWS.

Technological advances, including hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," have led to a renaissance in the shale oil and gas industry. If shale drilling and production isn't in your community now, it could be soon. Geologists have identified potential fields in more than 30 states and many foreign countries. Join us to learn how the work is done in Texas, and see firsthand the impact on people, their communities and the environment. Tour includes a visit to an active shale gas well site and fracking operation, a stop to talk with residents affected by drilling operations, a panel of fracking experts and a West Texas barbecue lunch. We'll also discuss how the battle to protect the habitat for the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard might affect shale gas development. Total drive time — 4 hours. Coverage.

NOTE: This tour is full.

Tour Leaders:
Don Hopey, Environment Reporter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Abrahm Lustgarten, Energy Reporter, ProPublica

Mark Boling, General Counsel and Secretary, Southwest Energy
Jason Brooks, Executive Director, Texas Habitat Conservation Foundation
Elena Craft, Health Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund
Amy Mall, Senior Policy Analyst, Natural Resources Defense Council
Ben Shepperd, President, Permian Basin Petroleum Association
Paul Wood, Local Businessman and Pilot, Gardendale Accountability Project
Texas Railroad Commission representative TBA (invited)


6. Reading Our Future in the Sands of Canyon Country

(8:00 a.m. departure, $35 fee, includes lunch)

PDCSP's "lighthouse" formation. Photo courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. © Earl Nottingham, TPWD.

Walk back through time in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, tracing Texas' history of extreme drought and climate change, and learn how that past may serve as a roadmap for our future. We'll hike the "Grand Canyon of Texas" with climate scientists and ecologists and discuss drought impacts today and historically. En route we'll stop at a farm to talk about drought's impact on the crucial Ogallala aquifer. Bring your binocs, as there's bird-watching to be had. Total drive time — 5 hours. Coverage.

NOTE: This tour is full.

Tour Leaders:
Douglas Fischer, Editor,
Lana Straub, Freelance Journalist

Ken Baake, Associate Professor, Department of English, Texas Tech University
Mary Jane Buerkle, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Plains Cotton Growers, Inc.
Barry Evans, Cotton Farmer
Cory Evans, Superintendent, Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Katharine Hayhoe, Director, Climate Science Center, and Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Texas Tech University
Judy Reeves, Senior Hydrogeologist, Cirrus Associates
John Zak, Associate Dean for Research, College of Arts & Sciences, and Professor of Microbial Ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University


7. Where’s the Beef?

(8:30 a.m. departure, $35 fee, includes lunch)

"Move ‘em on, head ‘em out... Rawhide!" Take a trip to a scenic and historic working horse and cattle ranch. Its heritage and stature position the Pitchfork Land & Cattle Company among a handful of great American ranches. The Pitchfork's operations span around 180,000 acres in 2 states and more than a century of continuous operation primarily under one family. The Pitchfork stands as a testimony to those who have loved the land and its cattle and to those who have dedicated their lives to making it one of the finest ranches in the world. We’ll also learn about the different environmental challenges facing ranches in today’s world. The second stop will be a cattle feedlot, which faces an entirely different set of environmental and stewardship challenges in raising beef. If time allows, we’ll tour the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock. Total drive time — 3.5 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Chris Clayton, Agriculture Policy Editor, DTN/The Progressive Farmer, and incoming President, North American Agricultural Journalists
Erica Irlbeck, Assistant Professor, Agricultural Communications, College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, Texas Tech University

Stan Bradbury, Rangeland Management Specialist, Lubbock Office, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Michael Brown, Professor of Ruminant Nutrition, Department of Agricultural Sciences, West Texas A&M University
Dean Hawkins, Department Head and Professor, Department of Agricultural Sciences, West Texas A&M University
Brooks Hodges, Manager, Pitchfork Land & Cattle Company
Kevin Kuriyama, Manager, Hale Center Feedyard
Greg Sokora, Civil Engineer, Lubbock Office, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
7th speaker TBA


8. Finding Water Where It Ain't

(9:00 a.m. departure, $35 fee, includes lunch)

Texas has always been plagued by drought, from the days of the Dust Bowl that sparked a whole new look at soil conservation to the devastating drought of the 1950s that changed water planning in the Lone Star State to the historic drought that parched the land just last year. And since experience is often the best teacher, Texans have become adept at finding creative ways to supply water to a rapidly growing population tested by increasing drought and climate change. We will tour the Matador Ranch owned by the Koch Brothers to hear from the ranch managers who toil daily with the lack of water doing everything from monitoring their grazing to putting new, more hardy cattle on the soil; we will hear from the Koch executives who take pride in the ranch while also overseeing one of Texas' many oil refineries; and from the government officials from NRCS who work closely with farmers and ranchers to preserve and conserve water. At the ranch, we will enjoy a picnic lunch. Finally, we will head to Lake Allen Henry, Lubbock's newest reservoir, where the city engineer will take us to the non-public dam area to discuss not only Lubbock's unique water issues but the different things city officials have done and are doing to ensure water for the future. Total drive time — 3 hours. NOTE: Attendees must wear close-toed shoes. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Betsy Blaney, Reporter, The Associated Press (Lubbock)
Ramit Plushnick-Masti, Reporter, The Associated Press (Houston)

Jim Conkwright, General Manager, High Plains Underground Water Conservation District #1, Lubbock, Texas
Wood Franklin, City Engineer, Lubbock, Texas
James Gillespie, District Conservationist, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Bob Kilmer, Ranch Manager, Matador Ranch
Jim Mahoney, Executive Vice President, Operations and Compliance, Koch Industries
Ken Rainwater, Director, Water Resources Center, and Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering, Texas Tech University


9. Wintering Cranes and Raptors at Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge

(9:30 a.m. departure, $35 fee, includes lunch)

Group of Sandhill Cranes at Muleshoe.
Photo credit: USFWS.

One of the largest winter populations of Sandhill Cranes occurs each year at Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, the oldest national wildlife refuge in Texas. The birds arrive in September, and by December their numbers may build up to 100,000 or more. When we visit, we’ll see Sandhills, and we’ll learn about the effects cranes have on the farm fields surrounding the refuge. We also expect to find several duck species, herons, and Ferruginous and Red-tailed Hawks. And we may see Golden Eagles, Lesser Prairie-Chickens, thrushes, shrikes, thrashers, and sparrows. We’ll also learn how the recent drought has impacted migrating and wintering birds. On the way back, we’ll stop at the South Plains Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, which cares for 2,000 injured, orphaned or displaced native wildlife annually. Total drive time — 2 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Carol Lee, Freelance Journalist
Matt Mendenhall, Associate Editor, BirdWatching Magazine

Cameron Carver, President, Llano Estacado Audubon Society
Rob Lee, Expert Birder, and former Enforcement Officer, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Jude Smith, Refuge Manager, Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge


Independent Hospitality Receptions

5:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Check your conference bag for a list of organizations and businesses ready to dispense great nibbles, quaffs, conversation — and the scoop on environmental issues and answers from your independent reception hosts' experts. See the list of 2012 hosts here. NOTE: Find the Barnes and Noble at Texas Tech Bookstore in the Ballroom, too, with books by members and speakers and more. Be there from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. when authors will gather at the bookstore suite for a book signing.

Location: Sunset Ballroom, 1st Floor


Exhibit Sneak Peek

5:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Browse through this year's exhibits, offering up information on issues and solutions, fellowships, source lists and maybe even some fun giveaways. Don't forget to check the second floor, too!

Location: Sunset Ballroom and ballroom foyer on the main floor, and outside the Horizon Ballroom on the 2nd floor


Wednesday, October 17
Friday, October 19
Saturday, October 20
Sunday, October 21

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