CTI, with Texas IAF, Blocks $10 Billion Dollar Corporate Tax Giveaway to Big Oil


When organizers set out to overturn Texas’s giveaway program for the oil and gas industry, they had a long game in mind. Over 20 years, the tax exemption program known as Chapter 313 had delivered $10 billion in tax cuts to corporations operating in Texas — with petrochemical firms being the biggest winners. This year, for the first time in a decade, the program was up for reauthorization. Organizers decided to challenge it for the first time.

At the beginning of last week, as Texas’s biennial legislative session approached its end, the aims of organizers remained modest. “We thought it would be a victory if the two-year reauthorization passed so we could organize in interim,” said Doug Greco, the lead organizer for Central Texas Interfaith, one of the organizations fighting to end the subsidy program.

At 4 a.m. last Thursday, it became clear that something unexpected was happening: The deadline for reauthorization passed. “The bill never came up,” Greco told The Intercept. Organizers stayed vigilant until the legislative session officially closed on Monday at midnight, but the reauthorization did not materialize....

“No one had really questioned this program,” said Greco, of Central Texas Interfaith. The reauthorization was a once-in-a-decade chance to challenge it. “We knew in our guts that the program was just a blank check, but we also are very sober about the realities of the Texas legislature.”

....As legislators met in a closed session to hammer out the bill, Greco heard from a colleague. “One of my organizers said there’s 20 oil and gas lobbyist standing outside this committee room,” he recalled.

Former Gov. Rick Perry, an Energy Transfer board member, tweeted his support for reauthorization. But as last week of the session ticked by, the bill didn’t come up. “It became clear that the reputation of the program had been damaged,” Greco said.

In 19 months, Texas’s subsidy program will expire, but that doesn’t mean the fight is over.

“We know there’s going to be a big conversation over the interim — we are under no illusions that this is not going to be a long-term battle.”

Organizers, though, recognize that the subsidy’s defeat marks a shift: “The table has been reset.”

The Unlikely Demise of Texas’ Biggest Corporate Tax Break, Texas Observer [pdf]

In Blow to Big Oil, Corporate Subsidy Quietly Dies in Texas, The Intercept [pdf]

Texas Legislature Dooms Chapter 331, Which Gives Tax Breaks to Big Businesses, Business Journal [pdf]

Missed Deadline Could Doom Controversial $10B Tax-Break Program, Houston Chronicle

A Texas Law Offers Tax Breaks to Companies, but It's Renewal Isn't a Done DealTexas Tribune [pdf]

A Controversial Tax Program Promised High Paying Jobs. Instead, Its Costs Spiraled Out of ControlHouston Chronicle [pdf]

Losers and Winners from Chapter 313Central Texas Interfaith


CTI, with Texas IAF, Bishops & Faithful Call on Lt. Governor and Senate to Reject 'Permitless Carry' Legislation

Bishops, rabbis, clergy and faithful from across Texas convened to express vocal opposition to the passage of proposed legislation HB1927 which would allow "permitless carry" in the state of Texas.  

Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz referenced the massacre in El Paso which resulted in dozens of residents dead and seriously injured. Baptist Rev. Darryl Crooms from San Antonio testified to the "unnaturalness" of adults burying children.  Lutheran Rev. Jessica Cain testified to the impact of last weekend's shooting in North Austin on local worshippers.  Rabbi David Lyon recalled last year's deadly shooting in Santa Fe High School.

Together -- with Lutheran Bishop Erik Gronberg, Episcopal Bishop Suffragan Kathryn Ryan, Methodist Director of Missional Outreach Andy Lewis, Dallas Catholic Bishop Gregory Kelly and several lay leaders -- all expressed concern that passage of HB1927 would increase gun violence.  States that have passed similar laws, removing the required license and training needed to carry a handgun, experienced spikes in homicides and gun violence.  From Central Texas Interfaith, Reverend Paul Skeith of SoCo Episcopal chaired the press conference and Jessica Cain, of Living Word Lutheran in Buda, testified to the fear that worshippers faced following the weekend shooting in Austin.   

“Our faith tradition teaches us to protect life,” said Bishop Suffragan Kathryn M. Ryan of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. “You cannot protect life if people carrying deadly weapons aren’t properly trained and licensed.

"You’ll find no scripture that will support this kind of legislation,” said Pastor John Ogletree, First Metropolitan Church of Houston. 

“It makes our church much less safe,” said El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz.

Video of Press Conference


Texas Faith Leaders Come Out Against 'Permitless Carry'CBS Austin [pdf]

Bishop Mark J. Seitz, Other Religious Leaders Oppose Bill That Would Ease Carrying of GunsEl Paso Times [pdf]

Religious Leaders Speak Against Texas Bill That Could Allow You to Carry Gun Without LicenseABC13 Houston [pdf]

Group of Texas State Leaders Say They're Opposed to Permitless CarryFOX KDFW

El Paso Bishop, Gun Store Weigh In On Texas 'Constitutional Carry' Bill DebateKFOX14 [pdf]

Esto Opinan Líderes Religiosos en Tejas Sobre la Propuesta Legislativa de Portar Armas Sin LicenciaUnivision Dallas 


CTI Faith Leaders, with Texas IAF, Push for State Weatherization of Power Grid


The virtual press conference was organized by the Network of Texas IAF Organizations — a nonpartisan coalition of 10 primarily faith-based organizations across the state that represents more than 1 million people — and The Metropolitan Organization, a Houston-based civic group, to keep public attention on the aftermath of the widespread power outages that occurred earlier this year....

Texas IAF has thrown support behind Senate Bill 3, which would mandate weatherization under federal energy regulation guidelines. The bill passed on March 29 and now moves to the House. It would also impose penalties for noncompliance, increase coordination among state energy regulating bodies and create an emergency alert system.

"Our families have already suffered enough," said the Rev. Minerva Camarena-Skeith of St. John's Episcopal Church [and Central Texas Interfaith] in Austin. "They have paid more than their fair share of the cost for the mistakes of the energy industry and the unwillingness of the legislature to regulate the energy industry."

As legislation trudges through the legislature, the struggles continue across the state, members of The Metropolitan Organization said during the press conference. The budget strain of paying for repairs, they said, is especially felt by people living in apartments, whose landlords may not cover costs, as well as mobile home park residents and the elderly.

Pipes also burst at the home of Sorina Serrano, who is still waiting for repairs. A leader with The Metropolitan Organization Houston and member of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, Serrano said her home insurance coverage expired in March and other insurers have told her they won't cover the house until the repairs are made.

[Photo Credit: Isabelle Baldwin/CNS Photo]

After Texas' Winter Storm Disaster, Faith Leaders Press for Legislation to Ensure 'Never Again', Earthbeat- National Catholic Reporter 


National Catholic Reporter Covers Impact of Blackout Through Lens of Environmental Justice

Central Texas Interfaith Strategy Team leader Carlota Garcia of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic, and her mother Rocio, are featured in this National Catholic Reporter "Earthbeat" article on an environmental justice impact of the storm in Austin.

"Downtown, west side, it was lit up like a Christmas tree," García said. "That night, we looked out the window and everything was dark in our (Eastside) neighborhood, and then [we could see] all the lights, beautiful on the skyscrapers just there on the other side of the freeway."

"Through her church, Garcia also volunteers as a strategy team leader with Central Texas Interfaith, a local affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation that has been doing relief and advocacy work during and after the storm."

[Photo Credit: Isabelle Baldwin, National Catholic Reporter]

Texas Storm Left Death, Devastation in Vulnerable CommunitiesNational Catholic Report - Earthbeat [pdf]


Washington Post Covers CTI Relief Efforts in Aftermath of Storm & Blackout

Even during the Texas winter storm blackout, CTI leaders swung into action to support low-income families cut off from access to heat, potable water and food.  Not only did they deliver direct assistance from their own pantries (and eventually much more in collaboration with the County of Travis) they participated in a Texas IAF press conference calling for structural reforms to the statewide power grid.  In Waco, CTI furthermore helped support a local congregation that opened their doors to vulnerable residents needing warmth.     

Profiled in each of the stories below are people and communities Central Texas Interfaith introduced to Washington Post reporter Arelis R. Hernández.      


[At Pecan Park Mobile Homes] on the eastern edge of Austin, Kamel is struggling to plan out the next few weeks for his family. Business had already been slow for his pressure-washing company because of the pandemic, but the freeze has now damaged the equipment.

“We are not able to use anything. So we have like a zero income for now,” said Kamel, who must pay rent by the first week of March to avoid $75 daily late fees. “I’m nervous. I’m sure we are not going to be able to pay on time.”

Days earlier, he nearly lost his three children to carbon monoxide poisoning after they used a charcoal stove to warm their mobile home. He said he felt like a prisoner listening to his children cry from the painful cold during their five days without power. Fear tore through Kamel and his wife after their son began vomiting and they rushed to the hospital.

The hardship reminded Kamel of his own childhood in Iraq, but he said he felt less prepared than his parents, who were accustomed to surviving. The 41-year-old has endured much in his life, but he did not expect this in Texas. The power and weather crises are over, but the consequences for his family will reverberate for weeks.

Kamel applied for individual assistance from FEMA after learning through his kids’ school about the help. Organizers from Central Texas Interfaith have also helped his family with immediate needs, such as food and water.

“We’ve been through similar tough times, but this time it’s different because we have kids,” Kamel said of himself and his wife. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen like next week or like 10 days from here or a month from here, you know?”

[Photo Credit: Sergio Flores, Washington Post]

The Power is Back, But Millions of Texans Wonder What It Will Take to Fully Recover -- and Who Will Help Them, Washington Post [pdf

Help On Ice: St. Alban's Serves as Warming CenterAct Locally Waco


Texas Catholic Bishops: 'Electrical Grid Failure in Texas Was No Accident'

[Excerpt below]

While we desperately need immediate relief, we must also seek long-term systemic change.

As faith leaders, we have a responsibility to cry out for the vulnerable and seek the common good, and this means the reform of a utility system that has served as a means for profit, putting profit before people.

Last week, The Network of Texas Industrial Areas Foundation Organizations with interfaith leaders from across the state held a press conference, urging the governor and legislature to take responsibility and put people before profits. It is time to direct recovery resources and restructure utility oversight to protect all, especially the poorer residents already on the edge because of the pandemic.

Bishops in Texas: Electrical Grid Failure was Preventable.  Without Accountability, It Will Happen AgainAmerica Magazine [pdf

'They Were Not Prepared': After Winter Crisis, Texas Will Have to Confront its Energy, Politics and Culture, Dallas Morning News [pdf]



Central Texas Interfaith & Texas IAF Declare State Power Failure an 'Act of Sheer Negligence' and Demand Accountability from Elected Officials

While state officials announced later in the day that power had stabilized and forced shutoffs were no longer needed, more than 300,000 households remained without power....Texas was especially hard hit because most of its power grid is isolated from the interconnected networks serving the eastern and western parts of the U.S. That made it difficult to import energy from other states when frozen pipes shut down generating station.

The failure of Texas' electric grid led faith leaders across the state on Thursday to call out Gov. Greg Abbott for a lack of leadership and preparation. They urged him to request assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Administration and dip into the state's $10 billion "rainy-day" fund to help Texans cover expensive home repairs and energy bills.

They also called on state leaders to act on a 2012 plan to modernize and weatherize the electric grid....

"We are calling for Gov. Abbott to first take responsibility for this gross negligence and stop finger-pointing. This is a gross act of negligence that has caused harm to the whole state of Texas, and it's time to put people over profits," the Rev. John Ogletree of the First Metropolitan Church of Houston said at a virtual press conference Thursday. The event was organized by the Network of Texas IAF Organizations, a nonpartisan coalition of 10 mostly faith-based organizations statewide that represents more than 1 million people....

"The storm may have been an act of nature, but the devastation of the electrical grid shutdown is an act of sheer negligence," Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly of the Dallas Diocese added in a statement.

Kelly and other faith leaders who spoke during the press conference and with EarthBeat described the struggles facing their state's people because of the freeze: Temperatures in homes hovering at 30 degrees. Elderly people unable to use dialysis machines. A 76-year-old woman sleeping in her car for warmth.  Churches that would typically offer shelter could not because they too lacked power and water...

Texas Faith Leaders Call Out 'Sheer Negligence' Behind Power Outages, National Catholic Reporter

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Says Lawmakers Must Require Weatherization of Power Plants - And Pay For ItDallas Morning News

Press Conference FootageFacebook Live


Emergency Info on Shelter & Disaster Relief

KVUE updates on shelters here

[en español abajo]

Travis County Emergency authorities have now opened up three more shelters for anyone in need. They are looking to open up more if they can find more volunteers (see info on volunteering below). Below are the three shelters that are now open for all individuals or families needing shelter. Shelters will remain open 24/7 and will continue to operate for as long as there is a need. Please be careful on the roads - and drive slowly. 

If you choose to go to a warming center/shelter, bring blankets and food with you if possible:

  • Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road (Central Austin)
  • Mendez Middle School, 5106 Village Square Drive (Southeast Austin)
  • Northeast (formerly Reagan) High School, 7104 Berkman Drive (Northeast Austin)

If you need a ride to one of these shelters you can contact Austin Disaster Relief Network at 512-825-8211 or 211.

Also here are emergency numbers to share widely:

  • Shelter Information: 512-305-4233
  • Emergency Food: 211
  • Medical Emergency: 911

The Austin Disaster Relief Network is in need of volunteers so they can open more shelters. Volunteers will assist in greeting/checking in people who arrive. AISD is willing to open more facilities but they don’t have the people-power. The volunteers do not need to be previously trained. Please call ADRN at 512-825-8211 to volunteer.

Please call one of the CTI Organizers if you have any questions:

  1. Doug Greco - 512-484-0590 (Travis and Williamson Co)
  2. Monique Vasquez - 520-248-8853 (Travis and Bastrop Co)
  3. Catherine Wicker - 512-771-9691 (Hays Co)
  4. Liz Ligawa - 254-292-8484 Waco and College Station

Las autoridades de emergencia del condado de Travis han abierto tres refugios más para cualquier persona que lo necesite.  Quieren abrirse más pero necesitan encontrar más voluntarios (consulte la información sobre voluntariado a continuación).  Hay tres refugios que ahora están abiertos para todas las personas o familias que necesitan refugio. Los refugios permanecerán abiertos las 24 horas del día, los 7 días de la semana y seguirán funcionando durante el tiempo que sea necesario. Tenga cuidado en las caminas - y maneje lentamente.

Comparta esta información por favor.

  • Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road (el centro de Austin)
  • Mendez Middle School, 5106 Village Square Drive (sureste de Austin)
  • Escuela secundaria Northeast (Reagan), 7104 Berkman Drive (noreste de Austin)

Si elige ir a un centro de calentamiento/refugio, lleve con usted cobijas y comida si es posible.

Si necesita que lo lleven a uno de estos refugios, puede comunicarse con Austin Disaster Relief Network al 512-825-8211 o 211.

También aquí hay números de emergencia para compartir ampliamente.

  • Información de refugios: 512-305-4233
  • Comida de emergencia: 211
  • Emergencia médica: 911

Austin Disaster Relief Network necesita voluntarios para abrir más refugios. Los voluntarios ayudarán a saludar / registrar a las personas que lleguen. AISD quisiera abrir más ubicaciones, pero no tienen suficiente gente para hacerlo ahorita. Los voluntarios no necesitan formación previa. Por favor llame a ADRN al 512-825-8211 para ser voluntario.

Y llame a uno de los organizadores de CTI si tiene alguna pregunta:

  • Doug Greco - 512-484-0590 (Travis and condado de Williamson)
  • Monique Vasquez - 520-248-8853 (Travis and condado de Bastrop)
  • Catherine Wicker - 512-771-9691 (condado de Hays)
  • Liz Ligawa - 254-292-8484 Waco y College Station

CTI Calls for Adherence to Living Wage Standard in County Subsidy Deal with Samsung

Fr. Paul Skeith from SoCo Episcopal Community and CTI spoke at the Travis County Commissioners Court this week to advocate that any private company receiving public tax subsidies from the county pay living wages, benefits, a career track, and strategy to hire locally. The Court subsequently adopted these and other worker safety measures as part of a package advocated by CTI congregations and member institutions including Workers Defense Project, LIUNA, and Central Texas Building Trades.


On Tuesday the Travis County Commissioners Court held a discussion on “Project Silicon Silver,” widely speculated to be the alias for chipmaking giant Samsung’s development contract. The discussion centered around acceptance of the preliminary application, along with a corresponding $150,000 fee paid out to the county by the developer.

The county is considering providing financial benefits in exchange for Samsung’s adherence to worker protection, wage, compensation, OSHA requirements and more.

Several citizen callers also stressed the need for county stipulations, including a living wage indexed to cost of living, local employee minimums and health insurance benefits for employees.

Father Paul Skeith of SoCo Episcopal Community advocated for all of the above issues, in addition to the opportunity for employees to rise within the company.

Jessica Wolff with Workers Defense Project highlighted the strengths of the development standards, citing the local hiring requirement, construction training requirement and anti-retaliation provisions, and called for the standards set in this policy to become the county norm.

”We recognize this is a great first step and there’s still more work to be done,” Wolff said.

Project Silicon Silver Proceeds at a Gallop, Austin Monitor [pdf]


CTI Calls for Prioritization of Affordable Housing in New Health South Plans

CTI leaders Ruby Roa of SoCo Episcopal and Trenton Henrichson of St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church advocated at Austin City Council this week for Austin to maximize affordable housing and public benefits for the city-owned redevelopment project at the former downtown Health South rehabilitation facility.

Councilmembers Tovo and Harper-Madison worked together to unanimously pass measures stipulating, among other community benefits, that "the central use of this tract is to be housing, specifically affordable housing."

[Photo Credit: HealthSouth Building/KXAN]

Austin City of Council Advances Plan to Bring Affordable Housing to City Land Near Downtown, KXAN Austin [pdf]