Environment Texas’ 2023 Legislative Agenda

Environment Texas outlines our legislative and program priorities for the coming year as we work for clean air, clean water and open spaces to protect and preserve our natural places.

Good news

Ruben Reyes | Public Domain

Environment Texas is a statewide advocate for clean air, clean water and open spaces. We believe there’s something special about Texas — something worth protecting and preserving for future generations. Whether it’s swimming in the Gulf of Mexico on a hot day, paddling down the Trinity River or hiking through Big Bend National Park, Texas’ natural wonders enrich our lives in countless ways. Yet the places we love and the environmental values so many of us share are too often threatened by powerful industries, neglect, and more. We have solutions to many of our environmental problems; we just need leadership to put them to work. Our legislative agenda for 2023 lays out our vision for what we hope to accomplish in the coming year to protect Texas’ environment. 

we love our state parks
Terry Hahn | Used by permission
Texans love their state parks

Million Acre Parks Project:

2023 marks the centennial of the Texas state parks system and we have a lot to celebrate. From Big Bend Ranch to Brazos Bend, Texas’ state parks system protects some of the state’s most beautiful places and waterways and provides a home for iconic creatures like ocelots, horned lizards and sea turtles. During the pandemic, many of us flocked to our state parks for fresh air and exercise. Every year, millions of Texans visit our state parks to go camping, hiking, boating, fishing and hunting. 

But as the state population rapidly grows, Texas families are too often turned away when our state parks hit capacity. The supply of state parks hasn’t kept up with the demand. According to a study by Texas Tech, the state needs to add more than one million acres of state parks by 2030. A 2021 poll by Texas 2036 found that 68% of Texans, including majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, support investing $1 billion to create new and expand existing state parks.

Environment Texas supports: 

  • Fully funding the Legislative Appropriations Request of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), including exceptional items for state park land acquisition, Migratory Game Bird Habitat Acquisition, and for the Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program 
  • Establishing a $1 billion trust fund to help Texas acquire land to grow the state parks system and invest in other conservation needs for the future 
  • Restoring the right of TPWD to contest permits for facilities which would pollute fish and wildlife habitat
Child with nebulizer

Clean Air

We look forward to the day where all Texans can breathe safe and clean air, especially vulnerable populations like children and senior citizens. Despite progress in recent years, air pollution from petrochemical facilities, power plants, cars and trucks, and more causes thousands of premature deaths in Texas each year, as well as inducing a host of human health issues including asthma and cancer. We need the state of Texas to take bolder action to reduce air pollution and hold polluters accountable.

Environment Texas supports:

  • Stronger pollution controls for industry, including tighter restrictions on nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide from gas turbines
  • Increase maximum daily fines for environmental violations from $25,000 to $40,000, as recommended by the Texas Sunset Commission
  • Eliminate the “affirmative defense” which allows polluters to escape penalties for unauthorized pollution 
  • SB 104 (Johnson) to create financial incentives for Texans to replace polluting gas-powered lawn equipment and other non-road engines with clean electric models.
  • Improved regulations and siting of concrete batch plant and aggregate operations
  • HB 441 (Lopez) to have the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality notify legislators when polluters in their districts are penalized
Kids jumping into lake
Brocreative | Shutterstock.com

Clean Water 

From taking a dip in the local swimming hole to the water we drink from the faucet, we all want our water to be safe, healthy and plentiful. But 28% of our rivers and 38% of our lakes have so much pollution they aren’t safe for basic uses like swimming or fishing. Too many Texans drink water contaminated with lead, toxic PFAS and PFOA “forever chemicals,” and other pollutants. And drought and waste continue to strain our drinking water supplies and habitat for fish and other wildlife. Environment Texas supports:

Environment Texas supports:

  • HB 40 and HJR 25 (Zwiener) to provide a property tax break for installing rainwater harvesting or greywater systems
  • Creating a financing program for nature-based infrastructure, such as constructed wetlands, rain gardens and green roofs, to reduce runoff pollution 
  • HB 1123 (Gervin-Hawkins) to get lead out of school drinking water 
  • Enhancing TCEQ permitting requirements to ensure effluent matches background levels of phosphorus in stream segments qualifying as pristine
  • Prohibit discharge of oil and gas wastewater and pre-production plastics into Texas streams
  • Reducing Texans’ exposure to toxic PFAS and PFOA “forever chemicals” by setting drinking water standards, improving disclosure requirements for shipping and disposal, and monitoring the health effects of PFAS among impacted communities
  • Increasing funding for water conservation, including for a statewide public awareness program
  • Prohibiting discharge of sewage effluent into waterways that recharge the Edwards Aquifer 
  • SB 226 (Eckhardt) to require new state buildings to use nature-based infrastructure like rain gardens and green roofs
Center for Pollinators in Energy at Fresh Energy | Used by permission

Clean energy

Texas is home to an abundance of clean energy options — the sun’s power, the mighty winds  of west and coastal Texas, the earth’s heat, and even the energy leaking from drafty windows in our homes and businesses. By using energy more efficiently and tapping our vast renewable resources, we can move to 100% clean energy: energy that doesn’t pollute, doesn’t contribute to climate change, and never runs out. 

Environment Texas supports:

  • SB 114 (Menendez) to incentivize Texans to reduce demand for electricity during peak periods through demand response programs
  • SB 258 (Eckhardt) to boost utility energy efficiency programs 
  • HB 1254 (Darby) to expedite construction of transmission lines to bring wind and solar power to our cities
  • HB 1013 (Gervin-Hawkins) to require that 50% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
  • Leasing Texas coastal waters for offshore wind

Environment Texas opposes:

  • Efforts to discourage solar and wind energy by creating new fees or restrictions
  • HB 171 (Spiller) and SB 154 (Springer) to create location requirements for wind farms that don’t exist for any other form of energy, including ones which pollute 
Bee on a flower
chezbeate | Pixabay.com

Save the Bees

Bees, butterflies and other pollinators are dying off at an unsustainable rate, with serious consequences for our natural world. That’s why we’re working to expand bee habitats and stop the use of bee-killing pesticides.

Environment Texas supports: 

  • Creating a Pollinator Habitat Program to provide funding to governments, businesses, individuals, and nonprofits to plant native, pollinator-friendly plants
  • Banning use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides along state highways and on other state property 
Bo Eide | Public Domain

Wildlife Over Waste

Every day, people throw away tons of single-use cups, containers and other plastic “stuff.” Among the worst forms of plastic pollution is polystyrene foam (the stuff most of us call Styrofoam), which never fully degrades. Nothing we use for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our oceans and rivers and threaten wildlife for centuries.

Environment Texas supports:

  • Restoring the right of local governments to protect wildlife from plastic pollution
  • Giving every consumer and small business access to the parts, tools and service information they need to repair products so we can keep things in use and reduce waste

 

Oil pump
Robert Lucian Crusitu | Shutterstock.com

Reducing pollution from oil and gas

From the huge amount of water required for oil and gas extraction, to the frequent and damaging wastewater spills and earthquakes, and to the flaring of dangerous pollutants into our air, Texans are increasingly concerned about the serious damage oil and gas production causes to our air, water, land, and climate. 

Environment Texas supports:

  • HB 228 (Goodwin) and SB 256 (Eckhardt) to reduce flaring and venting of gas by taxing it
  • SB 257 (Eckhardt) to develop a plan to end routine methane flaring on University Lands
  • SB 255 (Eckhardt) to repeal a special tax break for methane gas 
  • HB 1194 (Turner) to require public hearings for wells proposed within 1,500 feet of a child care facility or school
  • Banning most forms of flaring and venting and requiring operators to identify and reduce methane leaks
  • Increasing bonding requirements to ensure that the oil and gas industry—rather than taxpayers, communities or families—pays the costs of the damage caused by drilling operations

Environment Texas opposes: 

  • HB 33 (Landgraf) to block enforcement of federal oil and gas safeguards 
  • HB 743 and HB 744 (Dean) and HB 764 (Cain) to preempt local government health and safety authority over gas appliances and lawn equipment 
electric-school-bus-erik-voss-via-tpin
Erik Voss | TPIN

Destination: Zero Carbon

Transportation is now America’s number one source of global warming pollution, with greenhouse emissions from cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles surpassing every other source. We simply can’t solve global warming without changing how Texans get around. We need to make it easier for Texans to purchase, drive and charge electric cars. We need to provide funding for school districts and transit agencies to purchase electric buses. And we need to reduce the need to drive by making it easier, cheaper, safer and more enjoyable to travel on foot, bike or public transit. 

Environment Texas supports:

  • SB 238 (Menendez) to help Texas school districts take advantage of federal funding to purchase electric school buses
  • HB 821 (King) to allow charging providers to place and maintain electric vehicle charging equipment on state property like state parks
  • Modifying the Clean School Bus program to prioritize electric buses 
  • Expanding the state rebate for light duty electric vehicles
  • Efforts to boost transit-oriented development and enhance pedestrian safety such as Vision Zero

Environment Texas opposes:

  • HB 820 (King) to assess an annual $200 fee on electric vehicles and $100 fee on hybrid vehicles.
Topics
Authors

Luke Metzger

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 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.

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