In the gauntlet that is the Texas Legislature, the bills that have made it this far are looking at the final few obstacles in the way of becoming law.
StateImpact Texas has compiled a short list of bills pertaining to water, the environment and energy that could be heard by House and Senate this week.
HB 788 by Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown, would put the job of permitting greenhouse gas emissions into the hands of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Permitting is currently done by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Proponents of the bill, namely oil and gas interests, say the TCEQ could issue permits more quickly and alleviate the bottleneck of projects. Opponents the bill, like the Sierra Club and Public Citizen, say the legislation takes out contested case hearings that allow regular citizens to voice their opposition to certain projects. The bill has already passed the House, and was placed on the Senate calendar Monday for a second reading.
Previously: Coming Soon to the TCEQ: Greenhouse Gas Permits?
HCR 55 by Rep. Eddie Lucio, D-Harlingen, urges the U.S. State Department and the International Boundary and Water Commission to ask Mexico to deliver the full amount of water it owes under a 1944 treaty with the U.S. The treaty requires our southern neighbor to deliver about 350,000 acre feet of water into the Rio Grande on a five-year cycle. The water is vital to South Texas cities and agriculture, but Mexico is behind and Texas authorities worry it won’t make good on its water debt within the two years left in the five-year cycle. The resolution has been placed on the Senate calendar.
HB 252 by Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, would require local water authorities to report to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) if they have less than 180 days of water supply. Current reporting requirements are largely voluntary, which can leave the TCEQ with little time to find alternative water supplies in the case of an emergency. In 2012, the community of Spicewood Beach was days from running out of water before the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) reported the issue to the TCEQ. The bill has passed the House and has been placed on Senate calendar.
HB 857 by Rep. Eddie Lucio, D-Harlingen, would increase the number of public water utilities that would be audited annually. All public water utilities providing potable water, not just those receiving money from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), would be required to submit an annual audit. Smaller utilities (those serving less than 3,300 people) would perform an audit every five years. The bill was placed on the Senate calendar last week but has not been heard yet. It’s already passed in the House.
Notably absent from the list is HB 11, a piece of landmark water legislation by Rep. Allen Ritter, R-Nederland, that would have pulled $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to finance water projects across the state. That bill died in the House in late April, but water funding isn’t dead yet. There’s still a plan in the Senate and other legislative maneuvers that could resurrect the proposal.
David Barer is a reporting intern with StateImpact Texas