Slow Gains for the Environment at the Capitol

Lawmakers won't look forward, but will repair the damage done


While the 86th was not a halcyon session for environmental progress – no surprise, alas, in Texas – there was indeed some limited improvement. The Texas Emissions Reduc­tion Program (presuming the governor's signature pen is in working order) was put on a permanent footing: continuation of the current fund (about $77 million/year, via HB 1) and soon a trust fund (HB 3745) to be administered by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (meaning more long-term money) for projects to improve air quality, particularly as related to transportation. There's also new funding for parks and wildlife, and for Railroad Commis­sion inspection of solid waste sites and wellheads.

Although literally years late, under the supplemental appropriations bill (SB 500) money was finally designated for Hurricane Harvey reconstruction ($1.7 billion in rainy day money), and SB 7, addressing infrastructure, was amended to include "nature-based" strategies (e.g., wetland restoration). At the Lege, hindsight rules – rather than acknowledge that changing climate conditions are creating weather disasters, officials are grudgingly funding post-flooding repairs. Nearly a dozen bills were introduced to "study" the effects of climate change – not one received a committee hearing.

The oil and gas industry "own the Capitol building," said Robin Schneider of Texas Campaign for the Environment, speaking of the lobby's success in blocking environmental progress. One bill, HB 3557, caused particular anger among activists: It will criminalize even peaceful nonviolent action against industry projects (e.g., pipelines), imposing state jail felonies for "impairing or interrupting" operations. (Opponents have already announced court challenges on First Amendment grounds.) Overall, said Adrian Shelley of Public Citizen, the Lege continues to value "corporate interests over the health and safety of Texans."

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More 86th Texas Legislature
Texas Rangers Get Wrangled Into
Texas Rangers Get Wrangled Into "Bonnenghazi" Drama
Scandal surrounding House Speaker Dennis Bonnen burns on

Mary Tuma, Aug. 16, 2019

Bonnenghazi! Drama Reigns in the Texas House
Bonnenghazi! Drama Reigns in the Texas House
Did the speaker give his hard-right enemy a political target list?

Mary Tuma, Aug. 9, 2019

More by Michael King
<i>Hope and Hard Truth: A Life in Texas Politics</i>
Hope and Hard Truth: A Life in Texas Politics
Life beyond the governor’s office with Ann Richards’ chief aide

Sept. 2, 2022

Embattled Doctor Prevails Against the Texas Medical Board
Embattled Doctor Prevails Against the Texas Medical Board
The little guy wins

June 24, 2022

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

86th Texas Legislature, Texas Emissions Reduction Program, House Bill 1, House Bill 3745, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Railroad Commission, Senate Bill 500, Hurricane Harvey reconstruction, Senate Bill 7, climate change, Robin Schneider, Texas Campaign for the Environment, House Bill 3557, Adrian Shelley, Public Citizen

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle