Environment: Don't Hold Your Breath
The bulk of environment-related legislation has yet to be filed, but there appears to be little hope that the new Lege will make broad, sweeping reforms that would make Texas a healthier place to live. Still, environmental groups are poised to push even harder for a reduction of coal-fired power plants, as well as more incentives to increase the use of solar and other alternative energy sources.
One of the most forward-thinking bills to emerge so far explicitly addresses climate change. Senate Bill 78, filed by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, calls for at least a dozen state agencies to create a "climate adaptation plan" to prepare for global warming's effects on the "social, economic, and ecological systems" of the state. Hurricane Sandy may have served as a lesson on the benefits of preparing for natural disasters, but the bill requires each agency's plan to be based on "climate science" – deal-breaker words, to be sure – that identifies the impacts of rising temperatures and sea levels and other weather patterns.
Ellis has also filed SB 114, which would prohibit the operation of concrete-crushing facilities within 440 yards of residential dwellings, schools, churches, or recreational areas.
HB 114, from Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, would call for voluntary vehicle emissions inspections in border counties that are exempt from certain air quality requirements.
In regard to solid waste matters, HB 83, filed by Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, would give county commissioners more decision-making authority within extraterritorial jurisdictions. If a city does not provide collection and disposal services for communities within the ETJ, counties would be able to contract with a city or other entity to provide those services.