We're down to less than 19 days left in the Legislative session. Here's where we stand.
Bad news: It's now pretty much official that the Legislature will basically do nothing in response to the spate of recent fires and explosions at petrochemical facilities, although we did finally get hearings on two important bills. HB 3035 (to make sure penalties assessed by TCEQ at least equal the economic benefit of non-compliance) got a hearing before the House Environmental Regulation committee last week. As I testified, TCEQ's penalty policy allows companies which break the law to get a fine in some cases which is less than what they profited by breaking the law. That creates a perverse incentive to break the law. A bill to set stronger standards on chemical storage tanks also got a hearing, but both bills were left pending and are functionally dead.
Good news: Measures to address mobile sources of air pollution continue to move. A bill to prevent the Legislature from continuing to raid funds dedicated for clean air (known as the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan or TERP) passed the House unanimously and now awaits a hearing in the Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development committee. A bill to ban “coal rolling” passed the Senate and faced no opposition in a House committee hearing. A bill to create new fees on electric vehicles (to help pay for roads) was voted down in committee, but we'll likely see an interim study on that issue.
Bad news: Not content to just allow oil and gas companies to dump their wastewater in our rivers and streams, the House has now also approved a bill to subsidize them to do that. The Senate has approved a bill to fund the spraying of pesticides to control Carrizo Cane in the Rio Grande, a move which could harm water quality and wildlife. And a bill which could prevent cities from enforcing water quality and flooding standards in the city's ETJ passed the Senate and had a hearing in a House committee this week. Bills to get the lead out of school drinking water are all dead.
Good news: On the plus side, a bill to study the use of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) passed the House and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate.
Wildlife Over Waste
Good news: A bill to promote the use of recyclable materials as feedstock for processing and manufacturing has been approved by both the House and Senate and now awaits the Governor's signature. And a bill to fight illegal dumping of tires, vetoed by Gov. Abbott two years ago, has been pared back to address his concerns. It passed the Senate, but has been languishing in the House Calendars committee for two weeks.
Parks and Wildlife
Good news: Legislation to amend the constitution to guarantee sales taxes on sporting goods goes to our state and local parks has passed the House and Senate and now just needs to be approved by voters this November. A bill to protect the Jones State Forest has passed the Senate and a House committee.
Good news: The “solar bill of rights” bill to prevent cities from adopting anti-solar ordinances has passed the Senate and is awaiting a hearing in the House. Legislation to allow electric utilities to partner with electric generators to invest in battery storage has passed the Senate and got a hearing today in the House, so it's moving. A bill to study how renewable energy incentives distort the electric market (never mind that fossil fuels get twice the subsidies as wind and solar) passed the Senate, but got a very negative reception in the House State Affairs committee today, so it thankfully seems to be on life support. And we’re still on guard against efforts to kick renewable energy out of the state’s economic development program.
No Bees, No Food
Bad news: Bills to ban bee-killing pesticides on roadsides and to create taskforces to study pollinator health are dead, but the Chairman of the House Agriculture and Livestock committee has promised interim hearings on the issue.