So the Legislature is moving. The budget hearings on the House side began already, with key agencies up for public testimony beginning early Monday morning = including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality — in House Appropriations, again led by Jim Pitts. Much as we like to malign the agency for failing to protect public health, that doesn’t mean we want major cuts to their programs. Look for more info on it here — on this blog in coming days.
IN other leg news from the Capitol, some key committees changed heads. Most notably for energy and the environment, Byron Cook is no longer chair of Environmental Regulation, but instead will be the head of State Affairs, which often deals with issues related to energy and the electric grid. Leaving his post as head of State Affairs is Burt Solomons, who will still have a seat at the table, but now heads over to Redistricting Committee, which may take some time. Taking over the reins at Environmental Regulation is Republican Wayne Smith from the gulf coast. Energy Resources, which will deal with natural gas, as well as likely some renewable and energy efficiency issues, is still being lead by Republican Dallas-area Jim Keffer. Unfortunately, one of our strongest allies on environmental issues — Rafael Anchia — is no longer on that committee, instead being placed over on Land Resources
In Sunset news, the leaders of the bills have yet to be announced, but in the Senate, inside sources tell us Senator Hegar will be the lead on Railroad Commission, and Senator Huffman will be lead on TCEQ. Bonnen, Vice-Chair of Sunset, will decide next week on House sponsors.
Solar legislation is also heating up — Senator Fraser filed his solar incentive bill — SB 492, which would create a state solar incentive for both rooftop and utility-scale solar, while Senator Seliger filed his Clean Energy Districts — allowing cities to loan out money to individuals for solar, water conservation and energy efficiency — and then pay it back over time through property taxes – as SB 459. Senator Watson’s Non-Wind Renewable Bill — SB 330 — was referred to Senator Fraser’s Natural Resources Committee, though a hearing has not been set. In energy efficiency news, Senator Corona filed SB 552, which would create a Energy Efficiency Coordinating Council between the different state agencies to coordinate programs and policy on energy efficiency. All three of these bills are supported by the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director, Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club