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In the Oklahoma Panhandle, the nation’s largest wind farm is growing closer to completion by the day. As EcoWatch reports, the Wind Catcher Energy Connection project will include a massive 800-turbine wind farm.

This week, the project took a necessary step when Southwestern Electric Power Company reached an agreement with interested parties, including Walmart, allowing the wind farm to forward. The project is expected to cost $4.5 billion.

Callie Richmond / The Texas Tribune

In Texas, you can vote in either party’s primary. Could that affect who ends up on the general election ballot?

From The Texas Tribune:

If you’re loyal to a particular political party, have you – or a fellow Democrat or Republican – at least thought about voting in the opposing party’s primary? Maybe for a person you think would be a weaker candidate in the general election? Or maybe just to mess with the other team?

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The Texas solar energy industry boasts the fourth highest number of workers nationwide, according to a new CNBC report. The Lone Star State employs almost 9,000 solar workers, just behind New York State and Massachusetts.

California employs by far the most solar workers nationwide, with a staggering 87,000 jobs devoted to solar power. In the Golden State, more than five million homes are run on solar energy.

Our Turn At This Earth: The Writing On The Wall

Feb 22, 2018
Susan O’Shea/susanoshea.files.wordpress.com

According to legends passed down from generation to generation among the Hopi Indians, humanity has occupied three previous worlds, each of which was destroyed because we failed to honor the instructions of our creator. I learned about this myth from a man named James, a Hopi farmer whose family I stayed with during a 1980s visit to Hotevilla, the most traditional Hopi village.

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Early voting began yesterday in Texas, ahead of the state’s March 2 primary, which is the earliest in the nation.

As The Houston Chronicle reports, state electoral officials are warning residents to know ahead of time what is needed to make your voice heard.

In a statement, Secretary of State Rolando Pablos said, “It is imperative that all Texans wishing to cast a vote start early and undertake the necessary preparations to be able to vote.”

We might be weathering some chilly temperatures now, but High Plains gardeners know that it's not too soon to think about spring planting. Today's Growing on the High Plains gives a shout-out to one of my favorite "firsts" among springtime flower beds: the pansy.

These bright blooms look anything but shy, and they're available in a variety of shades and fragrances. I'll offer some hot tips for these cool-weather friends, as well their love-laced legend. 

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Oklahoma’s seemingly endless budget woes continue.

As KFOR reports, the state is facing down a potential $167 million budget shortfall for the 2019 fiscal year. However, that number is a marked improvement over the $900 million budget gap for the current fiscal year, or the $1.3 billion the year prior.

Gov. Mary Fallin seemed optimistic.

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Voting in the Texas primary elections is underway, and the Texas Panhandle is already seeing remarkably heavy turnout.

In fact, as The Amarillo Globe-News reports, Potter and Randall Counties are seeing more primary voters than in either the 2016 or 2014 primary elections.

Potter County Elections Administrator Melynn Huntley expressed surprise that this year was beating 2016, as that year featured a presidential primary with big-name Texas candidates like Ted Cruz vying to occupy the oval office.

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Health care costs for Coloradans are above average, according to a new study, and highest in the state’s eastern plains.

A study by the national Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement found that Colorado’s health care costs are 17 percent above average when compared to Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon and Utah. The cost of outpatient services in Colorado was even higher at 30 percent above average

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I’m Jonathan Baker, a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’ve been asked to talk a little about this month’s Radio Readers Book Club selection, Burning Beethoven by Erik Kirschbaum. The book is subtitled The Eradication of German Culture in the United States during World War I, and it contains a multitude of scary echoes for 21st century America.

I recall, back in 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, eating at a steak joint out on the Claude Highway near the Palo Duro Canyon. I ordered my New York Strip, but I hesitated about ordering fries. I simply couldn’t bring myself to say the words “freedom fries.”

Oil Production Ramping Up In Colorado

Feb 20, 2018
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Record levels of oil production in Colorado are being driven by a steady rise in oil prices.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, oil prices rose from a low of $43 a barrel in June to just over $60 a barrel for much of January and February and the uptick in prices has prompted an uptick in oil production.

US Department of Agriculture

Groundwater levels in western Kansas remained level and rose slightly in central Kansas last year.

As The KU News Service reports, 2017 groundwater levels remained steady in western Kansas, according to data from the Kansas Geological Survey, which along with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, measures water levels in 1400 water wells in western and central Kansas each year.

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A recent poll reveals that Texas voters overwhelmingly support criminal background checks on gun purchases.

According to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, more than half of Texas voters “strongly support” mental and criminal background checks, while another quarter of respondents said they “somewhat support” them. Only 17 percent of voters say they oppose background checks.

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Oklahoma’s Health Department is still struggling to gain its footing after being racked by scandal and turmoil in recent months. In the most recent development, the Health Department’s interim commissioner abruptly resigned this month, after allegations of domestic violence surfaced.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, the Board of Health unanimously accepted Preston Doerflinger’s resignation. Specific details for Doerflinger’s resignation weren’t given.

Rebecca Wilson / Wikimedia Commons

A recently implemented program at West Texas A&M University’s School of Music has been gaining a good deal of attention.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, WT’s partnership with Belmont University in Nashville gives students in the Panhandle a pathway toward careers in the music industry. Darrell Bledsoe, coordinator of music business at WT, said the program is exploding in popularity, adding: “It’s amazing.”

Beware of Becoming What You Hate

Feb 19, 2018
Harry R Hopps / Wikipedia

I have often suspected that if people aren't careful, they become what they hate. How many times have you seen a hypocrite pontificate about hypocrisy? A bigot complain he or she is the object of someone else's bigotry? Or someone preaching tolerance harbor assumptions that aren't actually that tolerant?

It's hard for people to see themselves as others do -- there's a reason for that which I'll get to in a bit -- and because of that we sometimes wind up acting like the very people we most despise.

West Texas A&M University will host a prominent water conservation expert on Tuesday night, as part of its Distinguished Lecture Series.

Dr. David Sedlak is a professor of environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, and he has gained an international reputation for his clear-eyed solutions to a crowded world increasingly threatened by water shortages.

In a 2016 TED talk, Sedlak outlined a four-part plan for rethinking water supply sources in water-starved cities like San Francisco. Dr. Sedlak further expanded on these ideas in his book, Water 4.0.

Public Domain

A tent city of homeless campers in Amarillo was told last week that they must once again shut down their camp and go elsewhere.

As KFDA reports, the Christ Church Camp must disband by the end of this week or the city of Amarillo will begin fining the camp’s homeless residents $2,000 a day for being on the site.

Poems from Above the Dreamless Dead

Feb 18, 2018
Ernest Brooks / Wikimedia Commons

This is Denise Low, a regular contributor to HPPR and 2nd Poet Laureate of Kansas. Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics, edited by Chris Duffy, is one of the selections for this season’s HPPR book club. Today I want to look at some of the fine poems in this illustrated anthology.

Valerie Brown-Kuchera

I like buying gifts and planning parties.  Themes are good.  A person can’t get too themey.  For my daughter’s Nancy Drew-themed party, we (and by “we” I mean “I”) made a cake shaped like a giant magnifying glass and hid clues in miniature envelopes throughout the house.  We (and by “we” I mean “I”) used invisible ink to write some clues.  Others were in code or mirror writing.  Yes, we (and by “we” I mean I) are the Da Vinci of theme parties.

Luke Clayton

It won't be long until it's time to chalk up the old box call and get our turkey hunting gear in order for the opener of spring turkey season.

In today's show, Luke "talks turkey" and discusses some of the challenges of getting a big old long beard with a shotgun or bow range.

If you enjoy hunting turkey in the spring, it's definitely not too early to begin making plans! 

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The Oklahoma Legislature’s plan to fix the state budget failed spectacularly this week, sending lawmakers scrambling to defend themselves from widespread criticism.

The Step Up Oklahoma plan had seemed to many like it held promise.

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Even though marijuana is legal in Colorado, because it is still illegal on the federal level, any job in the industry can be classified as trafficking in a controlled substance – something that is not necessarily a concern to industry’s state-licensed employees, except non-citizens.  

As Colorado Public Radio reports, just having a job in a marijuana dispensary or grow house can get even a legal resident deported and banned from the US – sometimes for life.

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Kansas school districts plan to use the proposed additional $600 million on personnel and programs for at-risk children.

Our Turn At This Earth: As If No Tomorrow

Feb 15, 2018

When, as a young woman, I had the good fortune to stay for a few days in the home of a Hopi farming family, I saw many similarities between my host, James, and my own father. Both men had spent virtually every day of their lives outdoors, tilling soil and caring for crops. And they both did this in a dry place—in James’s case the northern Arizona desert, and in my father’s, the high, dry plains of western Kansas.

They say there are three things that matter when making decisions about real estate: ECHOLOCATION, ECHOLOCATION, ECHOLOCATION. And I suppose this especially rings true even when you're setting up a new residence for hometown bats.

"Orphan" Oil And Gas Wells Costly To Colorado

Feb 14, 2018
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Improperly abandoned “orphan” wells are costing the state of Colorado about $75,000 each and as The Denver Post reports, there are about 300 inactive wells in the state that were supposed to be plugged with cement to prevent contamination of soil and water.  

This has concerned state officials, who revealed on Monday that they are having trouble taxing the oil and gas industry at the levels needed to deal with those and other environmental impacts.

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Xcel Energy crews from West Texas have been hard at work in Puerto Rico, helping to restore power to devastated hurricane victims there, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves says some crews will be returning this weekend, at which point another energy crew will head out for a three-week deployment.

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In the midst of one of the worst droughts to hit the state in decades, Texas is experiencing another kind of drought.

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Another bill that would have given teachers a pay raise failed on the floor of the Oklahoma Legislature this week.

As it stands now, Oklahoma teachers haven’t received a raise in a decade. As KFOR reports, the bill would have paid for an educator pay increase by raising taxes on tobacco, diesel fuel and wind energy.

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