Austin , TX —Spokespersons for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club said today that the Texas legislative session that just ended was a defensive victory for environmental forces but that the Legislature missed opportunities to make historic advances on protection of the environment and management of natural resources.
Ken Kramer, Sierra Club state director, said: "The environmental community, in cooperation with other interests, stopped major anti-environmental legislation from passing this session, and we are pleased with that outcome.
At the same time, however, the Legislature failed to enact historic legislation on protection of river flows for fish and wildlife and missed the opportunity to make major advances on water conservation, parkland acquisition, renewable energy goals, and radioactive waste management. Some progress was made in some environmental areas but nothing of the magnitude necessary to successfully address critical quality of life and natural resource issues facing our state."
As examples of the environmental community's success in stopping anti-environmental assaults Kramer pointed to the defeat of legislation that would have undermined the rights of citizens to contest pollution permits, restricted the ability of local governments to adopt water pollution control measures, and weakened enforcement actions against rock crushers and concrete plants. "Environmentalists were also able to avoid efforts to weaken regulation of uranium mining and restrict changes in the laws affecting open burning of trash and discharge of oil into water," added Cyrus Reed, who represented the Sierra Club during the session, "but our legislative efforts to protect Texas from becoming the dumping ground for the nation's radioactive wastes were thwarted by the lobbyists for the company that will profit from these wastes at our expense."
"Perhaps the most disappointing outcome of the session was the failure of the Legislature to enact the environmental flow recommendations of an interim Study Commission and the major water conservation and land stewardship recommendations of an interim Water Conservation Task Force, all of which had widespread support from diverse interests and basically no opposition," Kramer said. "In the end those issues apparently succumbed to the problems caused by the strained relationship between the House and Senate leadership over other unrelated matters." Kramer did note that some water conservation legislation did pass that will promote efficient use of existing water resources.
"If there is a special session at some point on education and school finance issues," Kramer said, "we hope that the Governor will consider putting on the call for the session those agreed-to legislative proposals on environmental flows, water conservation, and land stewardship that failed in
the last days of the regular session." On issues such as radioactive
waste, he noted that the Sierra Club would shift the focus of its fight for the time being to the agencies making permitting decisions on that waste.
Other issues will be pursued in interim studies and preparations for the next legislation session.
"These important environmental issues aren't going away," said Kramer, "and neither are we. The battleground shifts, but the struggle by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups to protect the public health of Texans and the environment of our state goes on."
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