2019 Legislative Agenda

By Luke Metzger
Executive Director

Our agenda for the 86th Texas legislative session. 

Environment Texas’ mission

We all want clean air, clean water and open spaces but it takes independent research and tough-minded advocacy to win concrete results for our environment, especially when powerful interests stand in the way. Thats the idea behind Environment Texas. We speak out and take action at the local, state and national levels to improve the quality of our environment and our lives.

Hurricane Harvey

We’re proud of how Texans came together to help their neighbors amid the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. With more global warming-fueled super storms on the horizon, we must work to build more resilient communities and protect our families from flooding and related toxic threats.  Environment Texas supports:

  • Protecting prairies and other open space to slow down flood waters
  • Creating a statewide debris management plan with emphasis on landfill diversion and environmental protection
  • Limiting flood and pollution problems from sand mining with stronger enforcement, erosion prevention measures and setback requirements
  • Requiring retrofit of floating roof tanks, a major source of air pollution during Hurricane Harvey, with geodesic dome covers
  • Restoring the public’s right to know about dangerous chemicals stored near them
  • Flood-proofing oil and gas infrastructure by requiring remote shut off valves and containment berms for all new wells in floodplains and labeling of storage tanks

Clean Water

From taking a dip in the local swimming hole to the water we drink from the faucet, we all want our natural waters and drinking water to be safe, healthy and plentiful. Environment Texas supports:

  • Creating a state website with bacteria testing data for freshwater swimming holes (as we already do for Gulf beaches)
  • Requiring new state buildings to use green stormwater infrastructure like rain gardens and green roofs
  • Studying the use of green stormwater infrastructure as a water pollution reduction strategy
  • Getting toxic lead out of school drinking water through mandatory testing and a grant program to help schools install filters
  • Prohibiting discharge of sewage effluent into waterways that recharge the Edwards Aquifer
  • Increasing funding for water conservation, including for a statewide public awareness program 

Clean Air

We look forward to the day where our air is safe and clean to breathe for all Texans, especially vulnerable populations like our kids and senior citizens. Environment Texas supports:

  • SB 208 to double the current 440 yard requirement between concrete plants or quarries and existing residences, schools, and churches to 880 yards
  • Establishing mandatory fines for violations of Clean Air Act permits and eliminating the “affirmative defense” which allows polluters to escape penalties for unauthorized pollution
  • Reauthorizing the fees which fund the Texas Emissions Reduction Program
  • Restoring funding for the LIRAP program, which enables low-income Texans to repair or replace their high-emission vehicles, and the Local Initiatives Program, which helps Texas cities comply with federal air quality requirements.
  • Allowing cities to adopt local option taxes for transportation investments

No Bees, No Food

We rely on bees to pollinate everything from almonds to strawberries to the alfalfa used to feed dairy cows. What happens if the bees disappear? It’s simple: No bees, no food. Environment Texas supports:

  • HB 136 to create a pollinator health committee to study the threats to bees and other pollinators and develop a plan to protect them
  • Banning use of bee-killing neonicotinoid (“neonics”) pesticides along state highways and on other state property

Clean energy

Wind and solar power, energy efficiency and electric cars are reducing air pollution, conserving water, reducing electric bills and creating jobs. Environment Texas supports:

  • Not discriminating against wind and solar energy in the Chapters 312 and 313 economic development program
  • Renewing the Light-Duty Motor Vehicle Purchase or Lease Incentive Program and providing $10 million in incentives for Texans to purchase electric vehicles
  • Requiring all new homes and commercial buildings to be “solar ready,” where either solar is installed during construction or the building is optimized to easily incorporate solar PV later.
  • Raising the energy efficiency goal for electric utilities
  • Allowing battery storage and demand response to be used as transmission assets by electric utilities.
  • Expanding our state’s renewable energy standard to set a goal of 50% renewable electricity by 2030 and 100% by 2050. 
  • Adopting a solar homeowners’ bill of rights, including right to timely interconnection to the electric grid and protection against discriminatory fees
  • HB 451 to include LED light bulbs in the annual sales tax holiday for energy efficient products 

Wildlife Over Waste

The “Don’t mess with Texas” campaign has been one of the most successful anti-littering campaigns ever. And yet too much trash still winds up along our roads, in our creeks, on our beaches, or in overflowing landfills, creating an eyesore and threatening wildlife and public health. To keep Texas beautiful, we need to prevent trash at the source. Environment Texas supports:

  • Restoring right of local governments to restrict use of single use plastic bags and polystyrene (aka “Styrofoam”) cups and containers
  • Fighting illegal dumping of tires
  • Require contractors to divert at least half of commercial construction and demolition debris from landfill

Protect our Parks

Camping, fishing, hiking and nature viewing: our local and state parks protect some of the most beautiful places in the state and give us places to teach our kids about the great outdoors. Environment Texas supports:

  • Fully funding the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department base and exceptional funding request, including additional funding for state parks, repairs to facilities damaged by Hurricane Harvey, to complete the development of Palo Pinto Mountains State Park and to fund the local parks grants program
  • A constitutional amendment to permanently authorize use of the Sporting Goods Sales Tax to fund state parks

Oil and gas

The oil and gas industry has been a boon to state revenues, but has led to pollution of our air and water. Environment Texas supports minimizing the damage from drilling by:

  • Studying methane emissions on public lands and developing recommendations on best practices to reduce pollution
  • Requiring annual reporting on total volumes and spills of wastewater
  • Posting data on oil and gas spills on the Railroad Commission website within 24 hours of being notified
  • Banning most forms of flaring and venting and requiring operators to identify and reduce methane leaks
  • Raising the maximum penalty the Railroad Commission can assess from $10,000 to $25,000 per day
  • Increasing bonding requirements to ensure that the oil and gas industry—rather than taxpayers, communities or families—pays the costs of the damage caused by drilling operations