Tag Archives: Texas Legislature

Texas Legislature to Study Potential for High-Level Rad Waste among other issues

Today, Speaker Straus put out interim charges for the Texas House of Representatives. There were many. But among the most controversial may be one he gave to the Committee on Environmental Regulation, which states:

2. Study the rules, laws, and regulations pertaining to the disposal of high-level radioactive waste in Texas and determine the potential economic impact of permitting a facility in Texas. Make specific recommendations on the state and federal actions necessary to permit a high-level ra dioactive waste disposal or interim storage facility in Texas.

This is not good news. Though only a study, it means someone is interested in turning Texas into the nation’s high-level waste dumping ground, to go along with the low-level radioactive waste we already receiving from around the nation. As you recall, Sierra Club won a State District Court case against the state and WCS – Waste Control Specialists — for not allowing us a contested case hearing before TCEQ granted the rad waste license. We are still waiting for our day in court as the case goes to the Third Court of Appeals. 

In the meantime – thought I would put this statement out

 

“Since 2003, Waste Control Specialists has repeatedly attempted to increase the volume and type of waste coming into Andrews County. First, it was waste imported from states that were not part of the compact with Texas, then it was only the hottest Class C waste, now they are trying to bring in depleted uranium and quintuple the volume of waste at their site,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Now, the legislature will be looking at high-level radioactive waste. Let us remind the legislature that the Sierra Club won its case at State District Court to be granted a contested case hearing on the current license, and we should have our day in court to determine if the site is safe before we go further on the road to turning Texas into the nation’s dumping ground.” 

Of course this is just one issue among many the Leg will be studying in the interim. For a complete list, see here

 

 

Texas Set to Become National Radioactive Waste Dump (Again)

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+++ EARTH DAY CALL TO ACTION +++ 

A terrible radioactive waste bill (CSSB 791) is being voted on by the full Senate TODAY, Monday April 22nd, 2013.

Call your State Senators (not Cornyn or Cruz) TODAY and say “NO to CSSB 791!”

— WHAT TO SAY —

Hi. My name is ____ and I’m calling from ___(your City)___ to strongly urge Senator ___(Senator’s Name)___ to vote no on CSSB 791 – the radioactive waste bill.

This bill transforms the initial waste license granted by the TCEQ in 2009, and would allow for more dangerous “hot waste” to come to Texas. Something I strongly don’t support.

Thanks so much for your time.

<><> NUMBERS TO CALL <><>

Brian Birdwell  512-463-0122                    Jane Nelson  512-463-0112
Donna Campbell  512-463-0125               Robert Nichols   512-463-0103
John J. Carona  512-463-0116                   Dan Patrick   512-463-0107
Wendy R. Davis  512-463-0110                 Ken Paxton   512-463-0108
Bob Deuell  512-463-0102                          José Rodríguez  512-463-0129
Robert Duncan  512-63-0128                    Charles Schwertner  512-463-0105
Rodney Ellis  512-463-0113                       Kel Seliger   512-463-0131
Kevin P. Eltife  512-463-0101                   Larry Taylor   512-463-0111
Craig Estes  512-463-0130                         Carlos I. Uresti  512-463-0119
Troy Fraser  512-463-0124                        Leticia Van de Putte   512-463-0126
Sylvia R. Garcia  512-463-0106                Kirk Watson  512-463-0114
Kelly G. Hancock  512-463-0109             Royce West  512-463-0123
Glenn Hegar   512-463-0118                      John Whitmire  512-463-0115
Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa  512-463-0120   Tommy Williams  512-463-0104
Joan Huffman  512-463-0117                    Judith Zaffirini  512-463-0121
Eddie Lucio  512-463-0127

CSSB 791: WCS to Become the National Site for B & C Waste

While the Public is Shut Out of the Process

VOTE NO ON SENATE FLOOR 

Testimony of Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director, Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter

In 2003, legislative leaders were convinced that the best course forward was to allow a private company to apply for and run a waste site for “Compact” waste from Texas, Vermont and Maine related to low-level radioactive waste. As part of that bill, the private company was also allowed to take federal LLRW largely from old Department of Energy sties. The rationale was that the Compact waste would not allow enough profit and the federal waste was needed.

In 2011, WCS came back to the legislature and said the Compact and Federal waste was not enough, and that some level of “imports” were needed. The Legislature gave them some, but not all of the imports from other states, limiting the total to 30% of the volume and 50,000 curies of waste per year.

Now, they have come back, and said again, it’s not enough. “What we really need is all of the Class B and C waste from the nation, and it’s ok with us if you send the Class A waste from Texas generators to other states.” (We’re paraphrasing here)  In fact, the required Capacity Study recently released by TCEQ found that Texas generators only needed to use relatively few curies allowed in the license, but could use all of the volume allowed in the license. So the solution proposed in this bill is to send Class A waste – which takes most of the volume — OUT OF TEXAS, and IMPORT HOT WASTE from other states. In other words, the original purpose of the waste site – to take care of Texas waste – is being transformed into a new purpose – making money for WCS.

It is worth noting that in the environmental assessment that was prepared in conjunction with staff’s review of WCS’s license application, it was assumed that most of the waste volume that would be deposited at the WCS facility would be Class A waste. Now it is apparent that far more Class B and Class C waste will be deposited in the facility, particularly if this bill becomes law, and one wonders whether the environmental assessment adequately considered these conditions.

CSSB 791 makes it more likely that MORE waste – and in particular “hotter” Class B and C waste – will come to Texas. While there remains an overall limit of curies in the license itself  of 3.89 million, CSSB 791 increases the total amount of curies to some 50% of the license -–300,000 curies per year through 2019. Assuming 300,000 curies per year, through 2019, plus the original 200,000 curies authorized in the first year of operations, half of the curies in the site would be filled up with out of compact waste. Thus, a site authorized by the legislature to assure that we wouldn’t become the nation’s dumping ground for hotter LLRW has now become authorized to become the nation’s dumping ground.

These changes fundamentally transform the initial license granted by TCEQ in 2009. CSSB 791 gives the Executive Director all of the ability to amend the license to incorporate this hotter waste without even considering it a major amendment. This strips citizens of their rights to even comment or contest these changes.

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Photo copied from Texas Tribune 2011 story.

The bill is also fundamentally aimed at a court case of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club is a national organization and in 2009 we asked for a contested case hearing on the WCS draft license based upon concerns from our members in New Mexico and Texas. The site is literally on the New Mexico border. In 2012, we won a case in state District Court which would have remanded the license and granted us the contested case hearing, largely based on the issues raised by our New Mexico members living in Eunice, New Mexico. That decision was appealed to the State District Court of Appeals, where we await a hearing.

In Section One, the bill makes any future contested case hearing only applicable to TEXAS residents.  While Sierra Club also has several members who are Texas residents and who are likely impacted by the facility, these members do not live and conduct their business as close to the facility as the New Mexico members. That is because the facility is right on the border with New Mexico. To put a facility on the border with another state and then refuse to allow that state’s residents to participate in the permitting process—a permitting process that could result in the authorization of a radioactive waste disposal facility that will house radioactive waste for hundreds of years—not only reflects a lack of respect for the neighboring state, but it invites possible litigation, for failing to recognize the rights and concerns of residents who are virtually neighbors to this radioactive waste site. Remember when the state wanted to build a waste site in Sierra Blanca, residents of Mexico actually participated in the contested case hearing.

In Section Six, CSSB 791 says that if the license issued by the TCEQ “ is later reversed or remanded to the commission by order of a court on procedural error,”  the site can continue to operate under a compliance agreement with the agency. In other words, even if a court of law orders that the site cease operations while a hearing is held, TCEQ can allow the site to continue to operate.  A special legislative fix for a licensee.  Sierra Club, WCS, and TCEQ are already in the midst of the appellate process. WCS’s operations have not been interrupted during this legal process. It makes no sense for the Legislature to inject itself into ongoing litigation. Instead, the Legislature should allow the judicial process to play out, as it has been, applying the legal rules and principles that are already in place, rather than attempting to change the rules in the middle of the game.

Similarly, Section Nine allows the Executive Director to make adjustments to license conditions based on performance objectives that require no right to public input or contested case hearings. Thus, the license issued in 2009 could fundamentally change with no recourse for the public to affect the changes to the license authorized by this act.

Sierra Club is not in support of CSSB 791 because of provisions increasing the amount of non-party waste coming into Texas, and the provisions that would impact our court case and future actions related to the site. We do not object to provisions in the bill related to the perpetual care account and other provisions related to emergency response.

Sierra Club Tells House Energy Resources Committee, “It Ain’t 1983,” Supports HB 3598 to Raise Maximum fines on oil and gas polluters.

For Immediate Release: April 10, 2013

549061_10151518113817920_4140573_nFor More Information: Lone Star Chapter Conservation Director Cyrus Reed – 512-740-4086, cyrus.reed@sierraclub.org

Dressed in his best imitation Don Johnson/Miami Vice white suit, Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter Conservation Director Cyrus Reed testified in support of legislation to raise the maximum fines the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) can assess against oil and gas companies violating state laws from the current $10,000 to $25,000 per violation per day.

“The $10,000 maximum was set in 1983, when the Police and Michael Jackson were the two biggest musical acts, and the Ewings out of Dallas were the biggest oil developers in Texas,” Reed told members of the House Committee on Energy Resources. “You should support HB 3598 (Rep. Lon Burnam – Fort Worth) to raise the maximum penalty from $10,000 to $25,000, because $25,000 today essentially equals $10,000 in 1983.”

Reed noted that the Sunset Advisory Commission recommended raising the RRC maximum fines to $25,000 four years ago. The Texas Attorney General, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency already have maximum fines of $25,000 per violation per day.

Reed wrapped up his testimony quoting Sting and Michael Jackson, “It is time for the Railroad Commission of Texas to watch ‘every move you make’ and tell companies operating in Texas with egregious regulatory violations to pay the fines, clean up their act or ‘beat it’.”

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What? You didn’t!

The thing that keeps me hopeful when the Texas Legislature and the TCEQ do things like they did yesterday, is knowing that people often do the right thing despite the Legislature and TCEQ.  There’s hope that rationality could prevail.

So what happened yesterday?

The TCEQ passed a terrible environmental flows rule and the State House of Representatives passed a terrible TCEQ Sunset bill.

First, Environmental Flows…

TCEQ Commissioner Buddy Garcia did the right thing!  Feel free to thank him with an email – bgarcia@tceq.texas.gov

The other two TCEQ Commissioners, Chair Bryan Shaw and Carlos Rubinstein tried to break our hearts with a terrible new environmental flows rule that leaves our friends the oysters, the shrimp and the fishing and tourism industries of the Texas coast too salty for life.  Need more info. so that you can make a comment on Matt Tresaugue’s Houston Chronicle article?  Here’s what Ken Kramer, Director  of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club says about the decision yesterday.

At today’s Commission meeting the public comments were strongly in favor of stronger standards, and those comments came from a diversity of folks – oystermen, seafood restaurant owners, seafood wholesalers, the Galveston Bay Foundation, the Coastal Conservation Association of Texas (recreational anglers), National Wildlife Federation, and Sierra Club. A few comments were made in favor of weak standards by representatives of water supply interests, who thus far have sought to stonewall or control the process for development of standards so as to avoid any meaningful environmental protections.

Read more.  Ken pointed to the large river systems authorities — the Trinity River Authority and Sabine River Authority as being the groups that blocked a meaningful result.  Now Texans have to disregard the TCEQ’s poor rule and make wise initiatives to leave enough water in the rivers to make it to the bays and estuaries.

What else could have happened yesterday?

Readers stay tuned for…What?  You didn’t! Part II…on the Texas State House of Representatives vote on the TCEQ Sunset bill.

Posted by Donna Hoffman, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club

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Water, water everywhere? State Capitol Report.

Texas Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter State Capitol E-Report
Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

February 3, 2011:

  • State Water Conservation Advisory Council at RiskAt least one state legislator has indicated that he will try to eliminate the state’s Water Conservation Advisory Council during the regular session of the 82nd Texas Legislature, now in progress. This move might be made through a “stand-alone” piece of legislation, a provision in or amendment to the Texas Water Development Board “sunset” bill (the Council receives staff support from the Board), or elimination of funding for the Council in the appropriations bill for state agencies (the financial support for the Council is only about $80,000 a year). The Sierra Club strongly supports continuation of the Council, whose work is important to meeting state water needs, and urges others to do so as well. …Read the full story… 

     


  • National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club Release Groundwater Statement The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club have released a position statement on “Ground Water Legislation in the 82nd Texas Legislature.” The position statement was prompted by the introduction in the Texas Senate of SB 332 by Sen. Troy Fraser, which would establish a “vested ownership right in groundwater.” (An excellent overview of SB 332 is provided on the Hill Country Alliance website at: http://www.hillcountryalliance.org/HCA/SB332.) Similar legislation is expected to be introduced in the Texas House. Apparently one of the reasons for the introduction of this legislation is to initiate discussion and dialogue on groundwater ownership, an issue currently before the Texas Supreme Court. NWF and Sierra Club “ welcome a healthy debate and discussion of the ground water rights issue, but …oppose efforts to expand the current ground water ownership doctrine” because the “proposed expansion would cause great regulatory uncertainty and expensive litigation.”Read the full story… 

     


  • Water Legislation Starts to Flow in the Texas House and Senate Although not exactly streaming in yet, water legislation is being filed in both the House and the Senate on a variety of topics. Already the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club has over 50 water and water-related bills in its tracking system for this regular session of the 82 nd Texas Legislature. Many of these are very limited in geographic area and/or scope – and many do not have direct relationship to the environment but deal with such things as agency and water district procedures. Two important water bills that have been introduced that are of interest to the Sierra Club are SB 181 by Sen. Florence Shapiro, which deals with the metrics used to measure water use and water conservation, and SB 449 by Senators Craig Estes and Kirk Watson to allow a property tax break for landowners who manage their land to promote and sustain water quality and conservation (the latter bill is accompanied by a proposed constitutional amendment, SJR 16)….Read the full story… 

  • The State Capitol E-Report is a monthly electronic update from the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club reporting on Texas environmental policy issues of statewide interest. Contact us at: lonestar.chapter@sierraclub.org …Header photo “Water” copyright Susan Heller donate
    Subscribe to the Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club Alerts, Invitations, Information!Join the Sierra Club. Get Outdoors! 

     

    Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club

    Sierra Club home photo by Susan Heller Texas Sierra Club Home Page
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    Water Council Safe- For Now.

    I’m pleased to report that at the Sunset Advisory Commission meeting this morning the Chairman of the Commission, Senator Glenn Hegar, who had initially floated the idea of abolishing the state’s Water Conservation Advisory Council, announced after a brief discussion that he was withdrawing his suggestion “for now.” This announcement came after the Chairman and other members of the Commission had received numerous communications in opposition to the proposed elimination and after two members of the Sunset Commission, Rep. Larry Taylor and Sen. Robert Nichols, made supportive arguments at this morning’s meeting in favor of continuing the Water Conservation Advisory Council.

    As a result of this morning’s actions the Sunset Advisory Commission report and decisions on the Texas Water Development Board (the primary state agency which the Council advises) will NOT recommend abolition of the Advisory Council. Indeed, ironically the Commission report includes a couple of recommendations which specifically call upon the Water Development Board and/or TCEQ to work with the Advisory Council on specific water conservation activities.

    Thus, the Advisory Council is “safe” for the time being. But remember that no person’s “life, liberty or property” or valued Advisory Council is safe while the Legislature is in session. The regular session of the Texas Legislature begins January 11. We will need to carefully monitor the Legislature to be on guard for any attempts during the legislative session to eliminate the Council either through a specific bill introduced for that purpose or – more likely – a last minute amendment to a more general bill. Sen. Hegar indicated in withdrawing his proposal at the Sunset Commission meeting that he is still not convinced of the need for the Council, so he might make an effort to abolish the Council during the legislative session. Stay tuned.

    In the meantime though, thanks to everyone who contacted members of the Sunset Advisory Commission on behalf of continuing the Water Conservation Advisory Council. Your support and your quick response is appreciated, especially at this busy time of the year, and it paid off!!

    Ken Kramer

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    Utility Commission agrees to publish rule requiring 500 MWs of Solar, Biomass and Geothermal

    Five years after the Texas Legislature passed a Renewable Portfolio Standard that included a target to get 500 MWs of renewable energy from sources other than wind, the Public Utility Commission today finally agreed to publish a rule that would require this provision of Texas’s RPS to be implemented. While the action today is only an agreement to publish for public comment – and not to actually adopt the rule — Commissioner Ken Anderson said he would be deciding whether to support the rule based upon comments received and also whether or not the Texas Legislature takes any action on its own to either modify or expand the 500 MW rule.

    Under the proposed rule, Texas retail electric providers would be required to get a small percentage of their electricity — or purchase Renewable Energy Credits from another source — from solar, geothermal and biomass. However, the proposed rule does not begin to require any investments until 2014, with the goal for meeting 500 MWs not being required until 2018.

    Juwi Solar Plant, San Antonio

    With one solar power plant of 14 MWs recently opened by CPS Energy, and some 150 MWs more of planned solar in 2011, the delay seems inappropriate. The Public Comment period is expected to begin in early 2011. Look here for how to participate in ensuring a clean energy future.

    For more information on the rule, please visit

    This PUC webpage on the proposed rule.

    Here is a great blog from Colin Meehan on EDF

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