Common Sense Protections for Texas
The Texas Legislature meets for six months every other year, and the 2019 session is now underway. Texas Campaign for the Environment and our allies expect to mobilize on a variety of issues, but we have a simple, common sense agenda which benefits all Texans.
Cleaning Up Pollution
First, TCE is continuing our effort to fight for real pollution cleanup by pressing for legislation that would strengthen the benchmarks for our pollution remediation programs. HB 893 by Rep. Harold Dutton & SB 2385 by Sen. Borris Miles would specifically strengthen our cancer risk standards for these programs to be equal to what they use in Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Arkansas—all of which are ten times better than ours. (Take action here).
Reforming Our Trash System
Second, TCE is continuing our decades-long work to fight against bad trash facilities in Texas by pushing for better permitting and enforcement for landfills, transfer stations, and other solid waste operations. Right now the state environmental agency is basically a rubber stamp for the trash industry, we aim to change that this year. We have several bills filed so far:
- HB 1329 by Rep. Ed Thompson requires waste facilities under an enforcement order to hold monthly public meetings detailing their progress on remedies to environmental concerns. His other bill, HB 2055 would allow for quarterly meetings at the request of legislators and regular online updates.
- HB 1330 by Rep. Ed Thompson would allow the state to levy the maximum environmental fine for public nuisances.
- HB 1331 by Rep. Ed Thompson would raise the application fee for new waste facilities–which can take weeks or months to process–from $150 to $2,000. SB 1976 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini would raise them to $5,000 plus the cost for public notice.
- HB 1390 by Rep. Dwayne Bohac would give regional councils of governments a say in the permitting of new waste facilities.
- HB 1391 by Rep. Dwayne Bohac would improve the inspection process for waste facilities, including allowing for surprise inspections and special attention to facilities that have had recent violations. An amendment to the state budget, HB/SB 1 would authorize the TCEQ to hire 8 new inspectors for waste facilities around the state.
- HB 1435 by Rep. Ed Thompson would require state environmental officials to actually visit a proposed waste site before permitting the facility.
- HB 1436 by Rep. Ed Thompson would not allow the state environmental commission to continue issuing permits to facilities that have not received all the required authorizations under the law.
- HB 1963 by Rep. Ed Thompson would require the administrative judges that hear waste permit contests have waste permitting experience.
- HB 3944 by Rep. J.M. Lozano would require that the TCEQ inspect solid waste facilities at least every 3 years.
- HB 4360 by Rep. Ed Thompson would require the TCEQ to dismiss permits that are incomplete or inaccurate if not fixed within 60 days.
- HB 4136 by Rep. Celia Israel would prohibit the TCEQ from approving a landfill expansion within 3500 feet of homes under certain circumstances.
- SB 551 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst would not allow facilities who have had their applications returned for false information to refile for the same facility.
- SB 638/HB 1549 by Sen. Joan Huffman and Rep. Dwayne Bohac would ensure that all home buyers are informed about any permitting waste facilities within a mile of their new home prior to purchase.
- SB 778 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini would end the “bifurcation” of landfill permit applications where trash companies can get proposed facilities shielded from local regulation before they even finish designing the facility.
- SB 868 by Sen. Zaffirini limits the amount of industrial waste that can be disposed of in normal landfills.
- SB 987 by Sen. Zaffirini requires extra precautions at landfills built over aquifers.
- SB 1338 by Sen. Zaffirini ends the practice of building waste facilities in flood plains. SB 900 by Sen. Kirk Watson and HB 4568 by Rep. John Cyrier would have to consider local floodplain maps when reviewing applications for waste facilities.
- SB 1339 by Sen. Zaffirni improves road safety requirements near waste facilities.
- SB 1639 by Sen. Zaffirini restricts importation of solid waste from foreign countries.
- SB 1931 by Sen. Zaffirini requires criminal background checks for proposed landfill operators.
- SB 1990 by Sen. Zaffirini disallows significant changes to permit applications before or during contested case hearings.
- SB 2155 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini protects soil samples from waste facility engineering for future examination.
- We are OPPOSING HB 2723 by Rep. Drew Darby which would strip local governments of their ability to limit the siting of waste facilities.
There are also other bills that deal with transparency and permitting for all kinds of facilities not just waste facilities. HB 245 by Rep. Jessica Farrar would require all pollution permit applications be posted on the internet for the public to review–something we already do with waste permits. HB 1804 by Rep. Harold Dutton would put all parts of TCEQ public meetings on the record–right now the first, most popular section is “informal” and unrecorded. Now the entire meeting will count and get a response from our state agency. SB 421 by Senator Lois Kolkhorst would have public meetings prior to the eminent domain condemnation of land for pipelines. We are OPPOSED to HB 3114 by Rep. Kyle Kacal which would take contested case hearings over pollution permits away from the independent State Office of Administrative Hearings and let TCEQ hear their own cases.
Restoring and Defending Local Protections
Third, we are working to empower local governments to lead on environmental protection. The Texas Supreme Court pre-empted bag ordinances but two justices urged lawmakers to take action on this issue this session. HB 514/SB 648 by Rep. Gina Hinojosa and Sen. Judith Zaffirini would restore the rights of local governments to deal with single-use bag pollution in their communities. HB 856/SB 777 also by Rep. Hinojosa and Sen. Zaffirini would add new rights to deal with other plastic pollution. (Take action here).
We also oppose efforts by special interests to come after Texas tree protections. (Take action here).
We’ll be playing defense against this and any other attacks on the environment which may materialize as we move forward!
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.