Photo: Texas Capitol rotunda, by Al Braden
With less than a week before thousands of House bills officially die because they failed to get out of House committees in time, many lawmakers are in full “Let’s Make A Deal” mode. And the results are not good for the environment, clean air, or clean water. However, there is reason to celebrate on several fronts!
UPDATE 1: The landmark energy efficiency goal bill, SB 258, passed the full Senate on Tuesday on an 18-13 vote. To her credit, Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) worked with multiple stakeholders on a compromise that got her the votes needed. The new version of SB 258 would push back the target date (originally it was 1% of annual energy use by 2027 but now it would be 2030), and put the Public Utility Commission of Texas in charge of determining how utilities should get there (utilities, for the most part, are easily meeting the current goals). Make no mistake, though, passing this bill would be incredibly good for Texas families and small businesses who are struggling with high electric bills. Now our attention turns to House State Affairs, where it is expected to be referred soon. Now is the perfect time to email and call your State Rep.
UPDATE 2: We thought HB 4144, the nurdle pollution bill, was dead last week. Then… PRESTO! It was scheduled for a hearing this past Thursday. The bill would explicitly spell out in statute that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has the authority to include pre-production plastics in its Surface Water Quality Standards. Not exactly radical since the Clean Water Act is pretty clear on the subject, but that didn’t stop the Texas Chemical Council from opposing this commonsense bill. While its chances remain dim, HB 4144 could get voted out of committee in the next couple days, but Environmental Regulation Committee Chair Brooks Landgraf could use some encouragement. Why not give him a call today?
UPDATE 3: In a major downer, HB 5 passed the full House on a 120-24 vote. The bill would re-establish (don’t say Chapter 313) something almost exactly like Chapter 313 (but without solar and wind projects), providing potentially billions of dollars worth of school property tax abatements to large polluting industrial projects. It was particularly disappointing to see most House Democrats vote for the bill (see how your Rep voted here). It makes you wonder what deals or promises were made, especially from members who tout environmental credentials.
UPDATE 4: We are sickened by the acts of violence against the LGBTQ+ community at the Capitol on Tuesday. If you aren’t aware, a staff member of the Texas Freedom Network, was violently thrown to the ground by DPS as they were being escorted out of the House gallery, where many Texans were protesting SB 14, which would ban gender affirming healthcare for trans youth. Learn more about SB 14 and take action through TFN here.
UPDATE 5: A terrible bill, HB 2827, that would eliminate individual permits for confined animal feeding operations (aka, CAFOs) passed the House with Democratic support on Friday, 80-53. This bill would increase pollution in Texas rivers. At this point in the session, you also begin to wonder whether absences are strategic in nature. For a good background story on dairy waste and its impacts, particularly on the North Bosque watershed, read this story from the Waco Tribune. The bill now makes its way to the Senate.