2011 Legislative Agenda
More solar power for Texas
Texas has what it takes to become the national leader in solar power. We get the most solar radiation in the country, are home to the world’s largest supplier of solar-grade silicon, and are innovators in the high tech industry. But Texas hasn’t capitalized on our natural advantages and, as a result, other states are luring solar manufacturers away. Environment Texas:
• Supports creating a statewide incentive program to install solar on a million rooftops in the next decade.
• Supports requiring electric companies to pay owners of solar panels a fair price for excess power put on grid.
• Supports measures to prevent homeowners associations from prohibiting residential solar installations.
• Supports requiring homebuilders to offer solar as a standard option in new developments.
Growing Texas sustainably
Poorly managed growth destroys valuable open space and farmland, forces us to drive long distances between home and work or shopping, increases traffic congestion, wastes tax dollars, and pollutes our air and water. We must reverse current development patterns and create planned, livable communities. Environment Texas:
• Supports giving county officials greater authority to regulate land use.
• Supports allowing local governments to develop funding programs for public transportation.
Reduce solid waste
Texas sends more than 32 million tons of trash to the dump every year, straining landfill space, wasting resources and contaminating our land, air and water. Environment Texas:
• Supports expanding Texas’ computer recycling law to include televisions, cell phones and gaming devices
• Supports encouraging recycling by requiring a small deposit on containers—also known as the “bottle bill.”
• Supports developing a statewide program to reduce plastic bag use while preserving local authority.
Ensuring Clean Water
Water is a precious resource in Texas, but rapid population growth, excessive water consumption, water pollution and years of drought have depleted Texas’ natural water reserves and put the state at greater risk of a water crisis. By 2050, total statewide demand for water in Texas is expected to increase 18 percent, while water supplies from existing sources are expected to decrease 19 percent. At the same time, many of Texas’ great waterways, from the Brazos River to the Gulf of Mexico, are struggling from too much sewage, runoff and industrial pollution. Environment Texas:
• Supports programs to increase water conservation, including uniform municipal reporting, annual utility audits of water losses, and incentives for rainwater harvesting.
• Supports authorizing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to curtail water use and require implementation of drought contingency plans during times of a potential water shortage.
• Supports prohibiting discharges into waterways that recharge the Edwards Aquifer.
• Supports reversing recent changes to water quality standards by TCEQ that allow greater levels of health-damaging bacteria in certain waterways.
Save Texas Parks
From the wildlife habitat they protect and water resources they provide, to the countless recreational opportunities they offer, our local and state parks represent a big part of what makes Texas special. Our parks also contribute financially to the state. According to the Comptroller, out-of-state visitors to Texas parks spent $283 million in 2008. And, by reducing the need for stormwater systems and by remediating air pollution, our parks save the state $159 million annually. Environment Texas:
• Supports maintaining current funding levels for local and state parks.
• Opposes appropriating revenues generated by the Sporting Goods Sales Tax for purposes other than the parks system.
• Supports protecting the Christmas Mountains as part of Big Bend National Park.
Clean air, healthy families
Despite significant progress, air pollution continues to cause serious health problems for Texas families. Industrial emissions from power plants, natural gas drilling and cars and trucks have led 21 Texas counties to fail federal health standards for air quality. As a result, Texans suffer from an increased risk of a variety of health problems including chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer, heart disease, and even damage to the brain, nerves, liver or kidneys. And it is our most vulnerable populations, including children and senior citizens, who are at the greatest risk. Environment Texas:
• Supports retiring or retrofitting Texas’ aging fleet of polluting coal-fired power plants and replacing them with cleaner sources of energy.
• Supports strengthening penalties for violations of environmental laws by increasing the statutory cap on penalties to $25,000 per day and requiring full recovery of the economic benefit of non-compliance and speciation of pollutants per event.
• Supports making polluters, not taxpayers, pay for the full cost of Title V air permit program.
• Supports improving the public’s ability to protect their neighborhoods by strengthening the contested case process and maintaining local enforcement authority.
• Supports investing in infrastructure and providing incentives for plug-in vehicles.
• Supports establishing a $100 surcharge on sale of new gas-guzzling vehicles, as recommended by the Legislative Budget Board.
• Supports stronger regulations on natural gas drilling, including mandatory green completions and capture of wasted gas.
• Supports requiring TCEQ to consider the cumulative impacts of air pollution when issuing permits or setting penalties.
• Opposes cuts to funding for the Texas Emissions Reduction Program and other clean air programs, including AirCheckTexas Repair & Replacement Assistance Program.
Encourage energy efficiency
Energy efficiency is the cleanest, quickest and cheapest way to get smart about energy use and reduce pollution, saving money and protecting the environment. While Texas was an early leader in energy efficiency investments, today we rank 32nd in the country, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. According to a December 2008 report by the Public Utilities Commission, Texas could reduce peak electric usage by 23 percent if utilities invested more in efficiency measures, saving Texans as much $11.9 billion on their electric bills. Environment Texas:
• Supports requiring electric utilities to reduce electricity consumption by at least 10 percent by the year 2020 by offering expanded rebates for weatherizing homes, replacing inefficient appliances and other efficiency programs.
• Supports improving new home energy efficiency through automatic adoption of national model building codes as they are published.
• Supports creating an energy efficiency coordinating council to better track and harmonize efforts by various state agencies.
• Supports maintaining existing tax credits for energy efficient appliances and renewable energy.