You’re invited to our post-election party in Dallas, but first, VOTE!

TCE Blog
Corey Troiani, DFW Program Director

With all this talk of elections, polling forecasts, and mudslinging in every direction, we wanted to take moment to recognize some encouraging trends in Texas voting. We also want to provide some information that may help you vote with the environment in mind. I’m going to invite you to a post-election party, so read on!


Early voting has already begun in Texas—meaning you could go vote today. If you haven’t voted already: Bookmark this page. Find your polling location and go vote!

Early voting ends Friday, November 4th at 7:00 PM, and then your only other chance to vote is on Election Day, November 8th. While Texas Campaign for the Environment does not endorse any candidates for office, your participation is critical because your vote is one way to influence what happens at the local, state and national levels.


partyforagrapecause_invite_webYou’re invited: Sunday, November 13th (the weekend after the polls close), we’re hosting a house party for TCE, called Party for a Grape Cause. You are encouraged to bring your favorite bottle of wine to enter the wine raffle—winner takes all! There will be other raffle prizes, like local gift cards, wine tastings for you and your friends, and plenty of goodies for you to snack on. We’ve got great sponsorships from some of the best wineries in Dallas and beyond! You can purchase tickets on our website. This election season, no doubt, has many of us pulling our hair out, so join us to kick back and relish our participatory democracy.

Alright, off the soapbox and into the weeds. For the first time in history, Texas has exceeded the 15 million mark for registered voters. This election has seen the largest uptick in voter registration since 2000. Some counties in Texas have done better than others. Harris County saw a 6% increase in registration (which is a huge number of voters in the state’s largest county) and Travis County leads the state with a voter registration rate of 90%! The other good news is the gap between eligible voters and registered voters seems to be closing. After a negative trend since 2004, Texas is back up to about 78% of eligible voter registration.

While history tells us Texas performs poorly in election turnout, we have until November 8th to change the story. There’s a million arguments for why you shouldn’t go to the polls—my vote doesn’t matter where I live, I don’t care for either candidate, we’re all doomed, etc. These arguments aside, here’s two truths about voting: (1) Democracy works best when you show up. 2) This election goes way beyond the next President.

Texas Lawmakers pass an average of 3.5 times the number of bills compared with U.S. Congress. By this measure, they are a much more productive body of government—and when you look at recent environmental legislation, much of it is bad news.

Texans have the opportunity to vote for scores of candidates in State House and Senate elections. You can find out about your state races through the Texas Tribune and see how they compare on the issues through League of Women Voters Texas non-partisan Voters Guide.

Our legislative priorities include reforming the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), the agency that oversees oil and gas, coal mining, and nuclear development in Texas. Last year the agency was granted veto power over local ordinances on oil and gas drilling (see House Bill 40), and during the same year only punished 16% of violations at drilling sites. Elected lawmakers will determine during the Sunset Review process next year whether to make deep changes to this agency or continue business-as-usual. Additionally, one of the three commissioner seats for the Railroad Commission will be on every Texas ballot this November—you can see how the four candidates view changes to the agency on pages 4-5 of the LWV Voters Guide.

We are also working to pass our own bill on household battery recycling. We helped pass similar legislation for TVs and computers in Texas, which has resulted in the collection of over 412 million pounds of electronics for recycling. Our battery bill aims to do the same for the single-use and rechargeable batteries that many of us hoard in our office drawers and garages or throw in the trash because there is so little convenient recycling now.

Another emerging environmental problem TCE will be taking on is sewage sludge. As Texas’ population grows so does our sewage output. Much of the sludge produced in Texas is “land applied”—spread on agricultural lands as fertilizer. As you may have guessed, this sludge can have serious pathogens that cause health problems for neighbors and impact waterways, and it also contains concentrated pollutants like pharmaceuticals, PCBs, phthalates, and antibacterial chemicals like triclosan. TCE wants to keep sludge out of flood-prone areas, to add public protections when the state issues experimental permits for sludge disposal, and eliminate the use of industrial wastes as fertilizer among other protections. We are excited to work with impacted landowners on this crucial issue, a new one for us.

Finally, we will be fighting some big defensive battles at the Capitol this session, as anti-environmental bills inevitably make their way through the Texas House and Senate. The best thing you can do today is make sure you’re educated on the right choices for your state representatives and any local races and get out to vote!

Democracy starts with each and every one of us making a plan and the conscious decision to have our voice heard. Remember: It’s not enough to just RSVP, you gotta show up and vote! So show up!—and after that, show up to our post-election party!

You can get your tickets here. See you there.


Corey Troiani
DFW Program Director

Texas & national bag reduction advocates blast Texas Attorney General’s assault on local bag law

Media Release

Robin Schneider, Texas Campaign for the Environment, 512-326-5655
Rob Nixon, Surfrider Foundation, 956-433-1472

Texas & National Bag Reduction Advocates Blast Texas Attorney General’s Assault on Bag Law
Wildlife, Livestock, Clean-up Costs to Local Governments, Flooding & Local Solutions are At Stake

State and national bag law advocates convened this week to defend bag ordinances in the wake of embattled Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit against Texas’ first local law against bag pollution in Brownsville. A range of organizations plan to assist as this issue lands in the lap of the Texas Supreme Court with the City of Laredo appealing a recent decision striking down that city’s bag law.

“The reasons for bag laws are as diverse as Texas,” said Robin Schneider, Executive Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment, who played a leading role in passing the Austin bag ordinance and successfully defeating attempts to preempt bag ordinances at the state legislature since 2009. “For the West Texas city of Fort Stockton it was the death of livestock that ingest ‘plastic tumbleweed’ and ruin the desert landscape getting caught on cactus and barbed wire, while on the coast it’s concern over sea turtles, plastic in the food chain and beach pollution.”

The benefits of local ordinances have been obvious.

“As a resident of the Rio Grande Valley, I have seen the very positive effects of the Bag Ordinances in Laguna Vista, South Padre Island and especially Brownsville. One would not recognize Brownsville today compared to 2010 when the city very wisely passed their bag law,” said Rob Nixon, Chairman of the Surfrider Foundation South Texas Chapter and Surfrider Foundation National Boardmember. “Attorney General Ken Paxton’s claim of the ‘buck a bag’ fee is disingenuous and not true. If you need a plastic bag at one of only the seven retailers that got exemptions and implemented the fee, it is $1 for as many bags as you require for the purchase. That fee goes to a fund to clean up the bags that are dispersed from the exemptions,” he concluded.

As Texas groups organize into a statewide network, national bag reduction advocates are also assisting.

“State preemption of local plastic bag laws is an issue that has become much more prevalent nationally the last few years,” said Jennie Romer, attorney and founder of “What’s unique about preemption disputes in Texas right now is that they’re new fights about old laws: the provision that allegedly preempts local bag laws in Brownsville and Laredo has been on the books since 1993 and Brownsville’s ordinance was adopted in 2009.”

“Single-use plastic bags may seem convenient, but that is far outweighed by their impact—which is far-reaching and ubiquitous. Every square inch of the planet is affected. Legislation to reduce or eliminate the consumption of single-use bags has proven to be effective.” said Christopher Chin, Executive Director of the Center for Oceanic Awareness Research and Education (COARE).


Laredo’s bag ordinance came together with the help of students, business owners and city leaders in 2015. The Fourth Court of Appeals, based in San Antonio, overturned the ordinance in August of this year.

“Doesn’t the state have anything better to do than to crush the will of the people and its locally elected officials, to suit just a few business interests?”asked Tricia Cortez, director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, and the primary advocate for the ordinance. “Conservation of our environment, and the protection of local wildlife and precious tax dollars, is at the heart of these plastic bag ordinances. Why should protecting the wallets of the plastic bag industry be considered more important than protecting the long-term health, financial well-being, and beauty of our cities? It’s a disgrace what is happening behind closed doors in Austin right now on this issue, that attempts to address a pervasive local and global problem in our communities,” Cortez concluded.

Wildlife groups including Sea Turtle Inc. and the Turtle Island Restoration Network are concerned about the impact of bag pollution on these iconic Texas animals.

“Turtle Island Restoration Network has been working with Surfrider Foundation, Galveston Chapter for two years to educate our residents and visitors about the impact of single-use plastic bags on the marine environment. With our close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston and West Bay, there is a strong possibility for single-use bags to enter our waterway,” said Joanie Steinhaus, Turtle Island Restoration Network’s Program Director for the Gulf of Mexico.

Additionally, there are many cities that have not yet enacted ordinances but which have been exploring them for some time now. These communities are looking to protect their rights to protect their environment.

“The Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club has campaigned for the last three years for a bag ordinance in Fort Worth,” said Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club Conservation Chair John MacFarlane. “We believe that an ordinance to phase out these single use bags will improve the aesthetic of Fort Worth, help to mitigate storm drain clogging, and will help save aquatic animals and terrestrial wildlife from a slow toxic death. Attorney General Ken Paxton should spend his time solving problems, not attacking good local policies that are protecting wildlife, livestock, water resources and the environment.”

Many groups are coming together to support the legal efforts to defend bag ordinances and to work at the Legislature in the 2017 session. These new threats have sparked the formation of a new network among advocates from across Texas with the input of national bag ordinance experts.

The Texas communities with bag ordinances on the books include: Brownsville, South Padre Island, Laguna Vista, Fort Stockton, Laredo, Austin, Freer, Sunset Valley, Kermit and Port Aransas.


Vote for a Texas free from pollution

TCE Blog
Melanie Scruggs, Houston Program Director

We’ll just come right out and say it: more Texans need to vote with the environment in mind.

This year’s election has been a real spectacle – but if you are still looking for a reason to vote this November, consider the fact that our state has an abysmal 18.9% recycling rate, does not comply with federal Clean Air Act standards for ozone pollution, and is home to 50 toxic U.S. Superfund sites and 10,000 abandoned oil wells! It’s not a coincidence that Texas also ranks 51st in voter turnout, including the District of Columbia.

The enforcement of existing environmental laws, as well as the creation of modern policies to deal with new challenges, stems from having elected leaders in public office who reflect our values. Voting records from the last state legislative session show that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle  voted against environmental improvements (and other times, in their favor), and it’s important to consider these voting records on Election Day.

Of course, elections are about much more than the attention-grabbing national races. Our Texas Senators and Representatives, as well as our local City Council members, County Commissioners and other elected officials, all play a critical role in the decisions that affect our environment and our daily quality of life.

vote-texas-freeFor example, one of the Texas Railroad Commissioners is up for election statewide this November. Despite its name, the Railroad Commission has nothing to do with trains – it is the state agency in charge of regulating oil and gas in Texas. Whoever wins this race will have authority to improve Texas’ ineffective enforcement program, which puts groundwater, property values, public health and our climate at risk.

Starting in January, state lawmakers elected this November will be responsible for crafting and voting on legislation such as statewide recycling for household batteries, the right of cities to pass single-use bag ordinances, and even laws that keep sewage sludge from being dumped near critical drinking water resources. Your vote may determine a win or a loss for the environment next year.

Texas Campaign for the Environment does not endorse candidates for office, meaning we can’t tell you who to vote for. But we can urge you to spend a few minutes to learn about your candidates’ views on the environment.

Here are some resources for you to be an informed voter:

  • Here’s a one-stop shop for basic voting instructions and resources for any county. For example, make sure you are registered to vote in your voting precinct where you live. If you still need to register to vote at your current address, the deadline is October 11th! Download a Sample Ballot to see all candidates and other items you will vote on in the upcoming election.
  • League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization that publishes a Voters Guide every election. You can learn about your local candidates and compare their statements on environmental issues by using

Finally, go ahead and use our “Take Action” page to send candidates and elected officials a message letting them know that you are a voter who cares about the environment. We have to tell politicians that if they want our votes, they need to prioritize public health and sustainability.