Common Sense Protections for Texas
At the beginning of the 2019 session TCE took on 3 major priorities, and over the course of the session a few other issues arose to become priorities for our work. Here’s how we did.
Cleaning Up Pollution
TCE succeeded in getting bills to accomplish this goal introduced in both chambers, HB 893 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) and SB 2385 by Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston). Both were referred to the respective environmental committees, but neither received a hearing. TCE met with almost all legislative offices about the bills on our Lobby Day, and had further in depth meetings with several key offices along with a major real estate developer who endorsed the bills.
Want to help us fix these rules before the next session? Volunteer with our #CleanUpTX campaign!
Reforming Our Trash System
TCE succeeded in getting more bills filed on this topic than ever before (as far as we know)–at least 27 bills were filed by legislators from both parties in both chambers. Committees heard 7 of these bills, and two of them were passed into law and signed by the governor:
- HB 1330 by Ed Thompson (R-Pearland), to raise the application fee for waste permits from $150 to $2,000, covering a greater amount of the costs for processing the application.
- HB 1435 by Ed Thompson (R-Pearland), to require a site visit by TCEQ to the site of a proposed waste facility before granting or amending a permit. We will be engaging in rulemaking to determine exactly what staff will look for when they visit to confirm the permit application.
Another bill that TCE spent a great deal of effort on in the previous session, SB 2070 by Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) and carried in the House by Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) would have outlawed the practice of using grit and grease trap sludge from commercial liquid waste as fertilizer. The practice is already forbidden by rule, but this would have shored up protections. The bill passed the Senate and would have passed the House except for a last minute procedural maneuver by Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Euless).
Restoring and Defending Local Protections
TCE succeeded in getting bills filed in both chambers to restore local government rights to restrict single-use bags: HB 514 and HB 856 by Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) and SB 648 and SB 777 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo). The latter two would have extended these rights to other kinds of plastic materials and packaging as well. None of these bills received hearings.
There were a few attempts to remove local tree protections, notably HB 969 by Rep. Drew Springer (chair of the House Agriculture Committee, where the bill was referred), and SB 422 by Sen. Donna Campbell. TCE worked closely with allies from Sierra Club, the Cities of Austin and San Antonio, and Texas Municipal League among others to oppose these bills. HB 969 was never voted out of committee, indicating bipartisan concern against the bill, and SB 422 was stalled to death before being amended onto another, bad bill against local water quality protections. That bill, HB 3750, was killed on a point of order by Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood). No new threats to trees passed in this session.
Another unanticipated local attack came from HB 2723 by Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) and would have stripped all local and county governments of their rights to limit waste facilities, including by zoning or siting ordinances. This bill got voted out of the House Environmental Regulation Committee after some significant but inadequate changes. The bill never received a vote in the House Calendars Committee.
Protecting Our Rights Contest and Protest
These were bills that emerged after the session began. One bill we opposed, HB 3114, would have taken the Contested Case Hearing process over TCEQ permits away from the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) and moved them to TCEQ itself–making them judge, jury, and executioner in the permitting process. That bill died in the Calendars Committee after widespread opposition.
HB 3557 adds significant new criminal penalties for protests against “critical infrastructure.” TCE helped allies secure significant improvements–taking the penalty for non-violent actions from a second degree felony (equivalent to attempted murder, up to 20 years in prison) to a state jail felony (equivalent to forging a check, up to two years in jail). We had gotten the bill down to misdemeanors for non-violent offenses, but legislators added the felony charges back in at the last minute. The bill would have been killed if any senator had stood for a relatively short filibuster, and two told us they would–but neither they nor any others would do so. Hold legislators accountable for their votes on this bill here.
Take Action for Environmental Legislation!
We can win on all of these issues, but we need you to take action right now.
- If our canvassers are in your neighborhood, sign up, contribute and write letters today!
- Sign our petitions to lawmakers urging them to work with TCE on these common sense environmental policies.
- Sign up to join us for meetings with your lawmakers at the State Capitol or in your own city.
- Stay tuned here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more info on what we get up to as the session moves forward!
To make it easier to write to your lawmakers, our positions are as follows:
Support HB 514/SB 648, HB 856, HB 893, HB 1329, HB 1330, HB 1331, HB 1390, HB 1391, HB 1435, HB 1436, SB 551, SB 638
Oppose HB 969
From our blog: We held our first statewide webinar to share information about our legislative priorities in 2017. Folks from all over the state tuned in online to learn, discuss, and TAKE ACTION!
Following a town hall meeting in Grapevine, it’s clear that many North Texans want significant changes made to the Texas Railroad Commission at the State Capitol next year. Here’s our recap of the meeting and how you can get involved in the process.
Houston Chronicle: Reacting to a groundswell of concern about the effect of plastic bags on the environment, Galveston is on the forefront of a statewide controversy over cities’ ability to ban plastic bags that are killing turtles, birds and fouling beaches.
E-Scrap News: The Texas Legislature’s serious consideration of a law mandating take-back and recycling for all household batteries sends a signal to other states considering the same, an advocate for the bill says.
My Fox Lubbock: According to the Texas Campaign for the Environment, about three billion batteries are buried in landfills every year.