In the Texas Legislature, the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Appropriations are the two committees that are responsible for passing the state’s biennial budget. Comprised of 15 and 27 members respectively, these committees held their one and only required public hearing last week on Article VI, the section of the budget that includes Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), and the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife (TPWD). This is a critical moment for the health of beneficial programs within these agencies. Let’s take a closer look at Parks & Wildlife.
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Wednesday of last week saw the deadline for filing official comments on the dreadful "plan" the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has proposed to lower smog levels in DFW by 2018. In effect, the plan is to wait for federal gasoline changes in 2017 and hope for the best. Shortly before closing time Wednesday, Downwinders at Risk and the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club submitted 62 pages of criticisms concerning the plan. Not because either organization believes the TCEQ Commissioners will change their minds, but because we're trying to establish a record that might eventually lead to a court challenge of the plan.
Lobbyists at the Texas Capitol know the secret – If it ain’t in the budget, it ain’t gonna happen. We know it too. The fate of environment, water, and parks and wildlife budgets may soon be sealed, and the agencies that support critical programs in these areas are at risk of getting their funding chopped.
On January 29, the EPA held three hearings nationwide, taking comments on new ozone (smog) standards. One of them was in Arlington, Texas. Scores of citizens from Texas and the surrounding region showed up in force to deliver a clear message: improve the standard to protect our health. Sierra Club member (and superb photographer) Al Braden captured the event in photos and video, and urged everyone who hasn't already spoken up to send EPA their written comments by March 17 urging them to lower smog limits.
The 84th Legislature has begun… kicking and screaming. After swearing in, the new leadership went about consolidating their political power. Governor Greg Abbott suggested modifying cities’ ability to protect themselves, and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick – who declared “a new day in Texas” – made it easier for partisan legislation to pass. Meanwhile, the gears of the legislative process have rumbled to life with new committees, the budget, bills, and more.
It's simple. Burning fossil fuels causes smog. And across the region, oil, gas, and coal are some of the biggest contributors to our smog problems. Smog threatens our health, especially children who develop asthma or other serious respiratory illness as a result of breathing in this toxic pollution. EPA has proposed to reduce the amount of smog that is allowable under the Clean Air Act to be more in line with what our best, most up to date science is telling us is safe to breathe. And next week, they want to hear from you.
“It’s a New Day in Texas” exclaimed new Lt. Governor Dan Patrick this week. It’s a new year too, which gives wind and solar power another chance to break more records. According to recent reports from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator for most of the state, wind power broke a few of their own records in 2014, and solar is gaining ground. But what’s coming down the line in 2015 and beyond?
- Last night, President Obama gave his 2015 State of the Union address. Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, issued the follow statement in response:“When it comes to the climate crisis, the President knows the stakes, and tonight, he underscored the urgency of the problem and his commitment to climate action for our children’s future. To meet the greatest challenge of our generation, we can and we must end our dependence not just on foreign oil, but all fossil fuels. We can indeed set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.
Today marks the beginning of the 84th Legislature - a body that has a lot of new faces and a lot of competing agendas. While this isn't our first rodeo, we always feel enthusiastic about this time of (every other) year. There are several issues we will focus on for the next 140 days under the pink dome. We'll be talking about them a lot and we'll need your help fighting to protect Texas' environment and people, so stay tuned! To get you started, here are our legislative priorities.
After a great turnout of enthusiastic supporters filled the auditorium of Austin Community College on Tuesday, the second of two public hearings on the EPA's proposed rule on regional haze is today in Oklahoma City. It's not too late to add your voice in support of clean air! Our Beyond Coal Texas team has all the details on the hearing, the rally, transportation, and fact sheets. Not in Oklahoma City?