10. Fifth Circuit upholds Exxon penalty
On Aug. 30, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against ExxonMobil for the third time and upheld a record $14.25 million civil penalty in our longstanding lawsuit against the oil giant for thousands of clean air violations at its Baytown refinery and chemical plant complex. Alas, Exxon has appealed yet again and the National Law Review says what happens next is one of the most “anticipated environmental and energy issues in 2023.”
9. Million Acre Parks Project launched
We kicked off a push to get the Texas Legislature to fund the acquisition of an additional million acres of state parks by 2030. We released a report finding we need more state parks to protect wildlife and meet public demand for outdoor recreation, received widespread media coverage, recruited a steering committee of prominent Texans, and are now working with legislators to secure major funding for land acquisition next year.
8. Permian Basin polluter held accountable
Together with the Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club and Texas Campaign for the Environment, we settled a lawsuit against one of the Permian Basin’s top polluters – DCP Operating’s Goldsmith plant near Odessa. The company will make improvements to the facility to reduce gas flaring and pay $500,000 to help improve local air quality and public health in the Odessa area.
7. Electric bike rebates doubled in Austin
Starting January 1, Austin Energy customers who purchase electric bikes will be eligible for rebates as high as $600 for individuals – twice the previous amount. Austin Energy is also launching a $300,000 pilot program to help lower income customers purchase e-bikes with even higher rebates.
6. Progress on plastic pollution
We made some headway this year in the fight to break free from plastics. The city of Austin will ramp up efforts to encourage restaurants to reduce use of single use plastics, after we worked with Council Member Kathie Tovo to pass a resolution at City Council. And 92% of shareholders of Houston-based Sysco, the world’s largest broadline food distributor, voted in favor of an Environment Texas-proposal that asked the company to develop a plan to reduce plastic packaging.
5. Renewable energy is on the rise
Texas now gets more than three times as much power from the wind, the sun and the earth as we did in 2012. And thanks to passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, renewable energy is expected to boom even more in Texas. The Energy Information Administration projects Texas will get 37% of its electricity in 2023 from wind and solar energy, up from 27% in 2021!
4. Victory for Natural City, Healthy Waters campaign
Green Stormwater Infrastructure is now required as the primary method of stormwater pollution prevention in Austin, thanks to a new ordinance adopted by the City Council. Environment Texas campaigned for passage of the requirement for more than five years and we’re excited that more rain gardens, green roofs and other green infrastructure will soon be built, making Austin a more natural city and with healthier waters.
3. Offshore wind coming to the Gulf of Mexico
The Biden Administration announced in July plans to lease an area 24 nautical miles off the coast of Galveston for offshore wind turbines, enough to power 2.3 million homes. We applauded the move as an important step towards achieving 100% renewable energy.
2. Austin kids to get cleaner air
Austin ISD became the first school district in Texas to commit to electrifying its entire fleet of school buses. Environment Texas Research and Policy Center made the case that this was necessary to protect children from harmful diesel exhaust and organized community support for making the bold commitment to electrification.
1. Houston kids to get cleaner water
Houston ISD will spend $1.2 million installing new filtered hydration stations to help protect kids from lead in the drinking water. The district acted after Environment Texas Research and Policy Center, the Coalition of Community Organizations, and TexPIRG Education Fund raised awareness about the problem and encouraged the district to take advantage of federal money to get the lead out.
Executive Director, Environment Texas
As the executive director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation, renewable energy and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughters are working to visit every state park in Texas.