What to Watch For at the Texas Legislature This Week

Matt Stamey/Gainesville Sun /Landov

There's a whole host of bills dealing with energy and environment at the Texas Capitol this week. Check out our handy guide for more.

It’s going to be a busy week at the Capitol for energy and environmental issues. We’ve culled a list of bills that could affect everything from the electrical meter on your house to radioactive waste disposal in West Texas. All of the meetings are open to the public, and you can always watch the House and Senate meetings online.

Smart Meter Opt-Out

Don’t want that new smart meter installed at your house? A bill, SB 241, by Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, could allow customers to opt-out of having a smart meter installed, or if they already have one, allow them to get their smart meter removed, for a “reasonable” fee. The Senate Business and Commerce Committee will discuss the bill Tuesday morning.

Meter Data Privacy

New legislation could limit who has access to the information from your smart meter. The bill, SB 1219, by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, would continue to give electricity providers and utilities access to your electricity usage data, but third parties would need customer consent to access the data. The Senate Business and Commerce Committee will discuss the bill Tuesday morning.

Solving the energy crunch, renewable power, water rates and more, all after the jump:

Solving the Energy Crunch

Legislation by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, could increase customer participation in reducing the strain on Texas’ electricity grid. The bill, SB 1280, could help increase demand response (customers changing their electricity use to meet current demands, for example using less air conditioning during hot summer days).

A related bill, SB 1351, by Sen. John Carona, would require state regulators to allow customers in all energy markets in the state (residential, commercial, and industrial) to participate in plans to reduce power consumption during peak times. The Senate Business and Commerce Committee will discuss both bills Tuesday morning.

Renewable Power Generation on Public Land

SB 1586, by Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, could raise the limit on renewable power generation on public land (schools, military) from 2,000 kilowatts to 10 megawatts. The Senate Business and Commerce Committee will discuss the bill Tuesday morning.

Sunset Bill for the PUC

A sunset commission review in 2011 called for several changes to the Public Utility Commission (PUC), but those changes were outlined in a sunset bill that was never passed into law. This year those recommendations, such as switching regulation of water utilities to the PUC and having the PUC review ERCOT’s budget, are back, in HB 1600 by Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana. That bill has already passed the House, and is now being considered by the Senate, in the Business & Commerce Committee Tuesday morning.

Transferring Duties Between State Agencies

The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) could take over the regulation of water and sewer services from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The potential switch is outlined in a huge bill, HB 1307, by Rep. Charlie Geren, R-River Oaks. The House Natural Resources Committee will discuss the bill Tuesday morning.

Sewage and Water Rates

Legislation by Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, could limit the size of rate increases by water and sewage utilities and how often they can occur. The House Natural Resources Committee will discuss the bill, HB 246Tuesday morning.

A similar bill, HB 1663 by Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, would also limit how often a utility could increase rates in a 12-month period.

Cutting Water Off During Crisis

A bill by Rep. Allen Ritter, R-Nederland, would give the TCEQ authority to adjust water diversions to senior rights holders when there is an “imminent hazard to public health.” HB 2720 outlines the new guidelines for water diversions and financial compensation, among other things. The TCEQ has said that the bill would limit their ability to respond to “senior calls for water rights.” The House Natural Resources Committee will discuss the bill Tuesday morning.

Water Well Fees

Planning on drilling a well and exporting the water you pump? A bill, HB 2739, by Rep. Trey Martinez Fisher, D-San Antonio, could impose a fee for such an activity in some water districts and limit how much water can be sent outside of the district. The House Natural Resources Committee will discuss the bill Tuesday morning.

Radioactive Waste Disposal

Texas’ only low level radioactive waste disposal site could benefit financially from proposed legislation. It would increase the amount of waste imported from states outside the disposal compact commission. The bill, HB 1653, by Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, will be discussed at the House Environmental Regulation Committee meeting on Tuesday morning. Previous reporting: Hotter Radioactive Waste Could Be Coming to Texas

Battery Powered Vehicles

A new bill, HB 3351, by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, could help sellers of electric and battery powered vehicles operate in Texas. The House Business and Industry Committee will discuss the bill Tuesday morning.

Air Quality Improvement 

Air in Texas’ cities can seem dirty at times, but without the state’s Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP), it would probably be a lot dirtier. A new bill, SB 1727 by Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, would expand emission reduction to new areas like fracking, and incentivize the use of lower pollution vehicles.

Pipelines, Eminent Domain and Common Carriers

HB 3547, by Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, could take the decision of granting common-carrier status away from the Texas Railroad Commission’s and into the hands of the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Common carrier status is what a pipeline builder needs to be able to employ eminent domain to take the land necessary to build a pipeline from land owners. The use of eminent domain to build the Keystone XL pipeline has caused particular concern among some landowners. Previous Reporting: Eminent Domain Comes to the Texas Legislature.

Follow us on Twitter and ‘Like’ us on Facebook to get the latest updates from the Texas legislature. 

David Barer is a reporting intern for StateImpact Texas.

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