For Immediate Release :Monday, June 1, 2009
For More Information:
Cyrus Reed, 512-740-4086, Tom ‘Smitty Smith, 512-797-8468, Colin Meehan, 512-619-2163, Karen Hadden, 512-797-8481, Luke Metzger, 512-743-8257
Note: This press release is in lieu of a Teleconference that was originally planned for 2:00 PM today.
Texas Legislature Advances Clean Power and Green Jobs,
but Loses Steam in Political Wranglings
Environmental Groups See Clean Energy
Groundwork Laid for the Future
Representative Rafael Anchia
Senate and House members from both political parties showed
unprecedented support for developing more renewable energy
and energy efficiency in Texas by filing a large number
of clean power, green jobs bills in the 81st Texas State
Legislature. A number of major bills passed either the
House or the Senate. Ultimately, political disagreements
over other issues and over the size and extent of the programs
delayed and killed most of these excellent legislative
Environmental groups Sierra Club, SEED, Public Citizen, Environmental Defense Fund, and Environment Texas applaud the passage of some clean energy, green jobs legislation and view the Legislature as having laid ample groundwork for the future.
“The fact that both the House and the Senate passed
major legislation on energy efficiency and renewable power
with bipartisan agreement shows that Texas leaders are willing
and able to develop clean power and green jobs for our state,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Nevertheless,
leaders were distracted by undue influence from industry
interests and by the Voter ID debate which hampered passage
of clean energy bills and other more vital areas of legislation.”
"Texas is moving more slowly than a melting glacier toward developing global warming policy. Rather than implementing already available energy efficiency and distributed energy solutions, Texas’ response
to global warming is to develop futuristic industrial-sized
solutions. As a result the state has legislation pending
that may develop standards for large scale carbon sequestration
projects and provide incentives to get companies to develop
the technologies,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “On the positive side, the state has passed a study to develop a series of ‘no regrets’ solutions
to global warming that the State can achieve at no cost.
Also, the Texas House, especially the House Committee on
Environmental Regulation, should be applauded for their more
open leadership style this session which lead to far more
reasoned and less ideological bills being developed in the
Clean Power, Green Energy Bills that passed both bodies and will go to the Governor (as this release goes to press):
• Green fleets legislation to promote low emissions and plug-in hybrid vehicles for fleets of major State Agencies (HB 432);
• Legislation allowing cities to create financial districts to loan money for renewable power and energy efficiency (HB 1937).
• Legislation setting a ‘no regrets’ strategy for greenhouse gas reduction in the State; a study of the state’s energy use to find ways to reduce our emissions and save money at the same time (SB 184)
• A coordinated green jobs strategy including funds allocated for child care programs, vocational training initiatives, energy efficiency measures, the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), and/or any other recovery funds (passed as a Rider to Article 12).
• Green fee bill passed allowing governing board of public colleges and universities to institute an environmental service fee once approved by student body election.
“This has been a disappointing session,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “However, with the passage of HB 1937, we can start the ball rolling on developing Texas’ solar
future, working with local communities one at a time to start
financing solar and energy efficiency projects.”
Groundwork Laid for Next Session
The major Clean Power, Green Jobs bills that passed the House or Senate but did not ultimately make it to the Governor’s Desk include:
• Raising the state’s minimum residential and commercial building codes from 2001 to 2009 standards (passed Senate as SB 16 and HB 2783 in House);
• Raising the utility efficiency goal (SB 546 passed both houses but no agreement was reached between Senator Fraser and Representative Anchia on the size of the goals)
• Adopting appliance efficiency standards for a variety of products, including pool pumps (passed Senate as SB 16)
• Creating a 1,500 MW Emerging Technology Renewable Standard (SB 541 – passed the Senate)
• Creating a $500 million solar incentive program (SB 545 – passed the Senate).
• Creating a Policy requiring utilities and retail electric providers to pay consumers fair buyback rates for excess electricity generation from renewable energy (HB 1243 – passed House and Senate, but was killed in the House through concerns over germaneness and Senate amendments.);
• High performance energy efficiency building standards for state buildings, including universities and public schools (HB 431). The Senate may pass the conference committee report today, on Sine Die.
Factors which prevented bills with bipartisan support from making it across the finish line:
• The issue of Voter ID, which put many major efficiency and renewable bills too far down the calendar for consideration in the House;
• A disagreement over the germaneness and concern over the possible costs to low-income residents of adding the solar incentive bill (SB 545) to the surplus electricity bill (HB 1234), which led Representative Turner to ultimately kill consideration of the bill on the House floor;
• The election of a new Speaker and the naming of new Committee Chairman understandably led to some delays in getting the committees up and running to begin to consider bills;
• Disagreement between House and Senate on size and scope of goals set by solar and energy efficiency bills (SB 545 & 546);
• Disagreement over the potential costs and benefits of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (SB 541);
• Opposition from the Texas Manufacturers Association, the Governor and many utilities against the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
"We were happy to find some new allies this session
including certain members of the legislature and some electric
utilities that said they supported renewable energy and energy
efficiency legislation,” said Jim Marston, Director of Texas Regional Office of Environmental Defense Fund. “Sadly,
some of the electric companies talked a good game, but their
support evaporated when opposed by their affiliated retail
electric providers or others in the industry. In the end,
the Association of Electric Companies of Texas reverted to
representing the interests of the regressive elements of
their membership harming the ability of Texas to participate
successfully in the new energy economy.
“Moreover, the Texas Association of Manufacturers (TAM) while
acknowledging that an expanded renewable portfolio standard
was the way to bring clean technology jobs to Texas, distributed
false cost information about solar legislation that was repudiated
by the PUC and others. The bottom line, TAM fought legislation
that would have brought new manufacturing jobs to Texas," said Marston.
Nuclear Bills Blocked
Environmental groups blocked bad bills that would have removed citizen rights to contest permits and would have promoted nuclear power in the State which many view as a financial drain from investment in truly clean energy.
"Nuclear power is expensive, consumes vast quantities of
water, comes with serious security and health risks and creates
radioactive waste, for which there is no good storage solution.
We were happy to block two bad bills this session that were
designed to benefit proposed nuclear reactors in Texas" said Karen Hadden, Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition.
The nuclear bills that were blocked:
• Fast tracked water permits for nuclear power plants and cut out contested case hearings (HB 2721 was left pending in House Environmental Regulation Committee)
• Subsidies for proposed nuclear power plants in the form of tax rebates (HB 4525 passed the House and was blocked in the Senate.)
“Representative Flynn’s bill would have fast-tracked
water permits for nuclear plants, an outrageous attempt in
a time of statewide drought,” said Hadden. “It
would also have denied citizens an opportunity to contest
issuance of the permits through hearings, an assault on democratic
process. The other bad bill that we defeated would have given
massive subsidies to nuclear power in the form of tax rebates."
• A good bill to address the Compact Loophole for the Andrews County Low-Level Radioactive Waste Dump bill, HB 3423 Lon Burnam did not get out of Committee.
• Environmental groups blocked a bad provision that would have fast tracked water permits for “clean coal” plants in the final version of HB 469 and added cleaner emissions standards for those plants.
• HB 821 passed, requiring television manufacturers that sell televisions in Texas to make free and convenient recycling available. Texas Campaign for the Environment successfully advocated for this bill.
• Sen. Ellis used a threatened filibuster last night to kill HB 3827 which would have allowed oil companies to evade liability for MTBE water contamination;
• SB 2169 Sets up an interagency working group, co-chaired by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Department of Transportation with other agencies to discuss smart growth and make recommendations for developing the state in a sustainable way.
• An amendment to HB 300 creates a certification program for environmental coordinators in Texas Department of Transportation district offices. This bill is still in conference committee as this release goes to press.
“As it concludes, environmentalists can view this legislative session with some hopefulness – the Legislature is definitely involved and interested in clean energy and green jobs and did move these issues forward. But there is also some sadness – an
opportunity to move significantly forward on these issues
was lost,” Cyrus Reed added. “Jobs
that could have been created, and new sources of clean energy
that could have been advanced in Texas were delayed this