Happy Sine Die! On this last day of the 86th session of the Texas Legislature, it appears we'll end up with mixed results for the environment. It could have been worse. Polluters have a lot of power in the #txlege, so it's remarkable what was accomplished. Assuming the Governor signs all the bills (not a guarantee - he vetoed a few environmental measures two years ago), this is my read on the highlights and lowlights of session.
- It’ll be harder for local governments to sue polluters (HB 2826 - Bonnen), but the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) program was extended (HB 3745 - Bell) and in two years the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will be able to spend the full $1.7 billion on clean air, rather than the current practice where the Legislature uses the funds to certify the budget.
- Thanks to Rep. Poncho Nevarez, who snuck a completely unrelated amendment on to anti domestic violence bill (SB 1804 - Kolkhorst), a radioactive waste dump will get a multi-million dollar windfall. (Crazy, I know). However, the dump - run by a company called Waste Control Specialists - won't be allowed to expand as the company had lobbied (SB 1021 - Seliger).
- In November voters will have a chance to guarantee that sales taxes on sporting goods actually go to our state parks, as intended (SJR 24 - Kolkhorst).
- The TCEQ will start to study green stormwater infrastructure (green roofs, permeable pavement, etc) to help with water pollution and flooding (HB 1059 - Lucio). Efforts to weaken water standards in Austin and San Antonio ETJs (HB 3750) failed, thanks to a parliamentary move by state Rep. Erin Zwiener.
- TCEQ will develop plan to stimulate use of recyclable materials as feedstock in processing and manufacturing under a bill passed by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (SB 649).
- Big Oil succeeded in the first step toward being able to dump their wastewater in our rivers (HB 2771 - Lozano), but at least taxpayers won’t be subsidizing them to do it (HB 2545 - Guillen).
- The “solar bill of rights” failed (SB 2066 - Menéndez), but so did attacks on renewable energy (SB 2232 - Hancock).
- Bills to save the bees (HB 2483 - Farrar, HB 136 - Gonzalez, HB 2312 - Beckley) went nowhere, but the House Ag committee will look at the issue in the interim
- Folks protesting pipelines or other so-called "critical infrastructure" could face a state jail felony of up to 2 years in prison if they "impair or interfere" with the operation of the facility.
- Lots of pro-environment bills unfortunately failed (see partial list below).
Thanks so much to all the lawmakers, staff, advocates and citizens who worked tirelessly to help protect our air, water and land this session. Stay tuned for the upcoming release of our Legislative Scorecard, where you can see how your legislators voted on these and other measures this session.
Pro-environment bills which didn't make it
SB 892 (Menéndez) to ban "coal rolling"
HB 3035 (Zwiener) to make sure penalties assessed by TCEQ at least equal the economic benefit of non-compliance
SB 1446 (Johnson) to set stronger standards on chemical storage tanks
HB 2998 (Talarico) to get the lead out of school drinking water
HB 4087 (Blanco) to close a loophole which allows polluters to escape penalties
HB 856 (Hinojosa) to allow cities to ban plastic bags and polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) containers
SB 1941 (Hancock) to allow electric utilities to partner with electric generators to invest in battery storage
SB 2064 (Menéndez) to direct companies who drill on land owned by UT to develop methane reduction plans
HB 928 (Anchia) to study climate change