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.
For 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:
- www.votetexas.gov: 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.
- www.lwvtexas.org 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 vote411.org.
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.