The Austin Chronicle

Environment: Adaptation and Mitigation

A few early bills promise environmental action – good and bad

By Michael King, January 9, 2015, News

In the early filings, Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, proposes big plans on climate change, water planning, and environmental justice. Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, would like Texans to know where the fertilizer is stored. A couple of bills would corral computer trash. And Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Garland, thinks protecting the environment just costs too much.

Ellis' SB 77 would require several major Texas agencies to develop "climate adaptation" plans "based on current peer-reviewed climate science." His SB 78 would apply the "best available science" to the state water plan. Both bills seem perfectly rational – meaning their chances of Lege adoption are minimal. His SB 253 would require new facilities requesting permits from the Texas Com­mission on Environmental Quality in "environmental justice communities" (the poor or minorities) be subject to additional standards and review, and proposes "environmental benefit agreements" for mitigation.

Pickett's ambitious HB 417 would set specific standards and procedures for ammonium nitrate storage and public information – a legislative reaction to the April 2013 West, Texas, disaster. We'll see whether the campaign embarrassment on the subject suffered by Governor-elect Greg Abbott will get in the way of passage.

Two early bills address high-tech waste mitigation: HB 87 (Rep. Mary González, D-Clint) would require large computer retailers to accept recycling of their products; HB 423 (Rep. Joe Farias, D-San Antonio) would ban computer equipment from landfills or incinerators.

Rep. Burkett's HB 190 takes a radically different tack: It would subject any proposed TCEQ regulation to a cost-benefit analysis, and invite public challenges to the validity of any rule by that procedural standard.

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