In this issue:
Trump’s Attacks on Landmark Environmental Laws a Threat to Texas
The Trump administration has lost little time in attempting to roll back basic protections for our nation’s water and air that have served us well for decades. Hard-won gains dating back to the 1970s are under assault, either directly or by cutting the budgets that are necessary to enforce them. The administration also wants to overturn more recent gains to protect waterways from pollution from coal-fired power plants, undo progress on climate change and clean energy, and more. Texas in particular will suffer unless we stop these attacks.
The administration’s attempt to undo the Clean Water Rule must be stopped. The Rule would restore protections to seasonal wetlands and headwater streams that were put into question during the last Bush administration. More than 70% of Texas stream miles run dry part of the year, but when wet, they connect to rivers that provide drinking water to more than 11.5 million people. Common sense and scientific consensus recognize that you cannot protect major waterways without protecting their tributaries any more than you can protect a person’s arteries without protecting their veins and capillaries.
Additionally, the administration’s proposed cuts to EPA’s budget would be devastating. In 2016 alone, EPA gave Texas more than $61 million in water infrastructure grants and another $7 million to protect waterways from polluted runoff. EPA clean air programs save an estimated 1200 lives in Texas each year, and provide $9.7 billion in health benefits.
No state would benefit more from climate protection and clean energy programs than Texas, which leads the nation in renewable energy potential and already leads in wind energy production. The administration’s plan to withdraw from the Paris Climate Treaty and to undo the Clean Power Plan is a threat to the state’s economy and public health.
All told, the new administration’s attacks on the environment are as unprecedented as they are irresponsible.
Legislature Misses Opportunities on Environment
The Texas Legislature wrapped up its regular biennial session at the end of May without strengthening protections for public health and the environment as Clean Water Action and our allies in the Alliance for Clean Texas called for. However, numerous proposals that would have hurt the environment also failed, including bills to overturn local bag bans, nullify tree protection ordinances, and erode the ability of cities to protect sensitive watersheds. Clean Water Action was active on these and other issues, and canvassers and volunteers were integral parts of two lobby days where constituents met with legislative staff to convey our positions.
The legislature unfortunately made only minimal changes to the Texas Railroad Commission, the agency in charge of regulating most oil and gas operations. HB 1818 (Larry Gonzales) reauthorizes the RRC for another 12 years, per Texas’ sunset law, but fails to increase fines for permit violations, increase groundwater protections from wastewater disposal, or even change the agency’s name to reflect its actual purpose. Other, more specific bills that were intended to address these issues failed. However, HB 1818 does direct the RRC to conduct a stakeholder process where these and other issues can be heard.
Wind energy suffered a setback with passage of SB 277 (Campbell), which eliminates tax incentives for wind turbines erected within 25 miles of a military base, ostensibly in the name of safety. But Pentagon approval is already required before turbines can be installed, and 28% of existing wind capacity in Texas are already operating within these buffer areas with no threat to military aircraft. SB 277 is in reality nothing more than an unfortunate stealth attack on clean energy.
Lawmakers also: said no to measures to protect children from lead poisoning by requiring testing for lead in school water supplies; turned down a proposal directing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to study use of environmentally friendly methods of stormwater control,…