Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) was founded in 1991 with canvass offices in Dallas and Houston, which were active until the mid-90’s. Some of the initial victories that TCE helped accomplish were establishing curbside recycling in Dallas and a household hazardous waste program in Houston.
In 1997, we started Public Research Works which was later renamed Texas Campaign for the Environment Fund (TCE Fund) and opened a canvass office in Austin with a focus on air pollution. We worked with many allies to close the Grandfather Loophole in the Texas Clean Air Act, drastically reducing emissions from older polluting facilities. TCE also assisted in the fight against lignite (coal) strip mining in Bastrop and Lee Counties to fuel a power plant that ran Alcoa’s aluminum smelter in Rockdale.
In the early 2000s TCE continued to work on waste and recycling issues. We helped communities in Northeast Travis County who were fighting air and water pollution from three neighboring landfills. We also succeeded in pressuring electronics companies such as Dell, Apple, Samsung and others to create takeback recycling programs. These programs shift the burden of recycling products and packaging from local governments and provide a bottom-line incentive to design for recycling. TCE played a leading role in the Texas Legislature passing producer takeback laws for computers and televisions.
Throughout its history, TCE has advocated for a Zero Waste economy. This includes creating policies and designing our economic systems around how we can sustainably deal with consumer waste as well as industrial pollution. TCE has spent more than a decade working for local municipal policies that will bring Texas closer to Zero Waste. Our efforts helped lead to ordinances requiring recycling for residents of multi-family buildings in Dallas and Austin and for recycling for all residents served by the city in Houston, one of the last major U.S. cities to do so. We led efforts to pass single-use bag efforts and to oppose preemption bills at the Texas Legislature. TCE coordinated efforts to defend bad ordinances in the state courts, but in 2018 the Texas Supreme Court invalidated the local bag ordinances.
TCE has also watchdogged the waste industry and assisted Texans faced with problem waste facilities. We helped organize in the South Texas town of Rio Hondo to stop a problem liquid waste company from polluting the largest freshwater waterway going into the Lower Laguna Madre. We worked with neighbors to trash facilities to hem in expanding landfills. We also led the effort to defeat the “One Bin for All” proposal in Houston which would purposefully mix trash and recyclables, making it harder for sorting, and likely leading to incineration.
In 2014, TCE helped pass an ordinance in Dallas that effectively stopped a wasteful and destructive drilling practice called fracking (or hydraulic fracturing) from coming to Dallas. We also assisted Denton residents in the successful effort to ban fracking by citizen vote. However, in 2015 the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 40, a sweeping law to invalidate local ordinances to restrict the operations of oil and gas. The law’s constitutionality has yet to be tested.
After Hurricane Harvey, we assisted in the efforts to clean up the San Jacinto Waste Pits east of Houston after many toxic waste sites were flooded. We worked to defend federal funding of the Superfund toxic waste clean-up program when its funding was under attack in 2017.
In 2018, we began a concentrated effort to organize in the Coastal Bend to oppose the air pollution permit of a massive ExxonMobil-Sabic plastics pellet plant. While that permit was granted, we helped form a local coalition to oppose the petrochemical and fossil fuel export build-out more broadly. We have been working to stop four proposed baywater desalination plants that would provide the water needed for the petrochemical buildout in the Coastal Bend. Two are proposed by the City of Corpus Christi, the main water provider for the region, and two by the Port of Corpus Christi. TCE is also fighting new and expanding crude oil and fracked gas (Liquified Natural Gas or LNG) exporting facilities across the Texas Gulf Coast. Limiting export will have a major impact on limiting fracking especially in the Permian Basin, Barnett Shale, and even in the Bakken in North Dakota.
In 2020, we broadened our organizing to address the other ways the fossil fuel industry contributes to pollution, climate change, and the destruction of our natural resources. We joined with other groups to contest flaring permit applications–requests to burn off large quantities of useful fossil fuel resources simply because a company hasn’t found a way to make use of them profitably–sought by ConocoPhillips at the Railroad Commission of Texas. TCE also joined Insure Our Future and Stop the Money Pipeline to oppose the financing and insuring of dangerous fossil fuel projects.
After Winter Storm Uri, TCE developed the Texas Power to the People Pledge (TexasPowertothePeople.org) which lays out principles for policy makers to address the underlying issues that caused the grid failure in February 2021. TCE organized meetings with legislative offices to request that they sign onto these principles which also highlights the role of the fracked gas companies and pipelines that contributed to the grid failure, the excessive profiteering of some companies, and the lack of oversight by state agencies like the Texas Railroad Commission and Public Utility Commission.