Almost 9,000 bills were filed in the Legislature by last Friday’s deadline. We’re still sifting through all of them, but here’s my first cut at our favorite and least favorite bills of the 2019 session.

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:

  • SB 777 (Zaffirini), HB 514 (Hinojosa) and HB 856 (Hinojosa/Zwiener) restoring the right of local governments to restrict the use of single-use plastic bags and polystyrene (aka “Styrofoam”) cups and containers
  • SB 1850 (Rodriguez) and HB 3854 (Walle) to fight illegal dumping of tires
  • HB 286 (Thompson) to produce a plan to stimulate the use of recyclable materials as a feedstock in manufacturing.

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
  • SB 26 and SJR 24 (Kolkhorst) and HJR39 (Cyrier) to amend the Texas constitution to permanently authorize the 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:

  • SB 185 (Miles) to require reporting and public notification of oil and gas well fires, leaks and spills
  • SB 2064 (Menendez) to require oil and gas companies who lease UT lands for drilling to develop plans to reduce methane emissions
  • SB 1380 (Rodriguez) to direct the Railroad Commission to identify measures to reduce flaring and methane leaks

Environment Texas opposes:

HB 2771 (Lozano), HB 3067 (Ashby), SB 1999 (Hinojosa) and HB 3717 (Dominguez) to allow oil companies who discharge oil and gas wastewater into rivers and aquifers

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:

  • SB 2062 (Menendez) to create a state website with bacteria testing data for freshwater swimming holes (as we already do for Gulf beaches)
  • SB 2063 (Menendez) and HB3261 (Ramos) to require new state buildings to use green stormwater infrastructures like rain gardens and green roofs
  • SB 1381 (Rodriguez) and HB 1059 (Lucio) to study the use of green stormwater infrastructure as a water pollution reduction strategy
  • HB 2998 (Talarico) to get toxic lead out of school drinking water

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:

  • SB 2068 (Menendez) to require 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.
  • SB 1931 to allow electric utilities to partner with electric generators to invest in battery storage
  • HB 2148 (Blanco) to study expanding our state’s renewable energy standard to 50% renewable electricity by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
  • SB 2066 (Menendez) to establish a solar homeowners’ bill of rights, including the right to timely interconnection to the electric grid and protection against discriminatory fees
  • HB 451 (Turner) to include LED light bulbs in the annual sales tax holiday for energy efficient products
  • SB 1281 (Birdwell) to create a statewide program to finance water conservation and energy efficiency for commercial properties

Environment Texas opposes:

  • HB 4180 (Miller), HB 4368 (Martinez-Fischer), which discriminate against wind and solar energy projects
  • HB 889 (Murphy), SB 1216 (Schwertner), HB 1971 (Cain/King) which eliminate incentives and raise fees on electric vehicles

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 (Campbell) to double the current 440-yard requirement between concrete plants or quarries and existing residences, schools, and churches to 880 yards
  • SB 271 (Watson) & HB 270 (Israel) to allow state employees to telecommute, reducing traffic and air pollution
  • HB 245 (Farrar) to require air and water permits be posted online
  • SB 2175 (Miles), SB 2065 (Menendez) and HB 4087 (Blanco) eliminating the “affirmative defense” which allows polluters to escape penalties for unauthorized pollution
  • HB 2661 (Blanco) to require school districts to adopt policies limiting the idling of dirty diesel school buses
  • HB 1043 (Blanco) to reauthorize the fees which fund the Texas Emissions Reduction Program

Food and the environment

Unsustainable farming practices can harm bees, pollute our waterways, and deplete the soil. We should make it easy for farmers to grow nutritious food for everyone and leave the land healthier than we found it. Environment Texas supports:

  • SB 236 (Nelson) to promote community food gardens on state property
  • HB 136 (González), HB 2484 (Farrar) to create a pollinator health committee to study the threats to bees and other pollinators and develop a plan to protect them
  • HB 2483 (Farrar) to ban the use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides along state highways
  • SB 2061 (Menendez) to ban the use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides on school property
  • HB 2312 (Beckley) requiring bee-friendly plants to be planted along state highways

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 superstorms on the horizon, we must work to build more resilient communities and protect our families from flooding and related toxic threats. Environment Texas supports:

  • SB 6 (Kolkhorst) to help local officials develop plans for debris removal in disasters
  • SB 7 (Creighton) to fund flood control projects, including protecting prairies and other open space to slow down flood waters
  • SB 1446 (Johnson) to flood-proof oil and gas infrastructure by requiring retrofit of floating roof tanks, a major source of air pollution during Hurricane Harvey, with geodesic dome covers and to require storage tanks be anchored.
  • HB 100 (Johnson) to direct state agencies to plan for extreme weather