Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Joe Straus each announced legislative issues that will be studied by senate and house committees during 2010, leading up to the next Texas legislative session in 2011. The results of these studies (such as Texas' response to federal environmental initiatives and their impact upon Texas businesses) may ultimately be filed as bills during the legislative session.
These studies provide a great opportunity for you to become involved in the Texas legislative process by weighing in on issues that impact your industry and how you do business in Texas. Changes in state law could result in a more friendly business environment for your industry or create hurdles that could increase the costs of doing business in the state. It is important for you to be active in legislative matters because in all likelihood, your competition will be involved.
The interim studies will include public hearings, during which opportunities exist to educate legislators and staff on the relevant topics. The studies also lead to the generation of written reports that are circulated to all members of the legislature. Thus, opportunities exist for your position on an issue to be included in – or excluded from – the results of a legislative study.
Environmental and Energy Issues of Key Importance
As provided by Lt. Governor Dewhurst and Speaker Straus, the following is the list of study topics that are likely to be important to your industry:
- Monitor and review the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's rules on carbon dioxide and federal legislation on greenhouse gases. Review the participation of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Railroad Commission of Texas, the Department of Agriculture and the Public Utility Commission in working collaboratively to comply with federal mandates and meet federal clean air standards. Senate Committee on Natural Resources.
- Monitor federal legislation and regulatory initiatives pertaining to climate change and its effects on utilities and consumers. Consider Texas' response to proposals and make recommendations as to any further preparations. House Committee on State Affairs.
- Monitor federal legislative and regulatory initiatives as they pertain to climate change. Consider Texas' responses to proposals and make recommendations as to any further preparations. House Committee on Environmental Regulation.
- Examine the regulation of air quality in the areas of permitting new and modified sources, public participation and enforcement. Consider data and proposed federal standards and rules as they relate to the State Implementation Plan. House Committee on Environmental Regulation.
- Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, 81st Legislature, Regular and Called Sessions, and make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, and/or complete implementation.
- Monitor implementation of legislation relating to air quality;
- Monitor the use of Texas Emissions Reduction Plan funds for the development of new strategies to reduce emissions; and
- Monitor the environmental impacts, including water usage, and role of the TCEQ and other agencies in oil and natural gas development in areas of the state such as the Barnett Shale. Senate Committee on Natural Resources:
- Monitor the implementation of recent legislation dealing with carbon capture and storage and make recommendations as to whether further action is required to resolve outstanding issues. Examine proposed legislation from other states and review federal initiatives. House Committee on Energy Resources.
- Examine the state's portfolio of electric-generation resources, including traditional sources, emerging renewable technologies and energy efficiency. Determine whether the existing state regulatory programs and incentives are adequate to meet the energy needs of the future. Consider factors relating to reliability, requirements for additional transmission, or auxiliary services. Joint Interim Charge with House Committee on State Affairs, and House Committee on Energy Resources.
- Study and make recommendations relating to the development and implementation of wind energy. Assess the total impact of wind energy, including additional costs to consumers (if any), buy-back provisions and pricing, the need for alternative energy sources at times when wind does not generate electricity, impact on the ERCOT grid, development of battery storage and other storage methods, and economic development impacts. Senate Committee on Business and Commerce.
- Consider the establishment of uniform statutes and codes relating to liquid petroleum gas permitting and operations as a means to resolve conflicts of interpretation between state and local jurisdictions. House Committee on Energy Resources.
- Study options for reducing demand for electricity, including innovative pricing options relating to the use of smart meters, programmable thermostats, and other demand side management and behavioral response strategies. Review current consumer education programs to reduce demand, decrease energy prices, and improve air quality. Consider benefits and costs of alternative energy sources, such as geothermal and solar, and current incentives for electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The study should include recommendations for improving consumer knowledge and usage of these strategies in lowering overall electric usage, promoting energy efficiency, and improving the reliability of the ERCOT grid. Senate Committee on Business and Commerce.
- Monitor the effects of current and proposed federal initiatives that could impact the implementation of the State Water Plan. Evaluate the policies and investments developed by other states dealing with water issues similar to the State of Texas. House Committee on Natural Resources.
- Evaluate groundwater regulations and permitting processes throughout the state, including the role of state agencies in groundwater management, the development of desired future conditions and the adoption of groundwater management plans in relation to regional and state water-planning. House Committee on Natural Resources.
- Determine whether the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should identify and evaluate cumulative effects on public health and the environment due to air toxins and ozone precursor emissions proposed in applications for new air permits, air permit amendments, and air permit renewals. Make recommendations, if needed. Senate Committee on Natural Resources.
- Survey current local ordinances governing surface use of property in oil and gas development. Recommend changes, if any, to the authority of the Railroad Commission to regulate the operation of oil and gas industries in urban areas of the state, particularly the Barnett Shale. House Committee on Energy Resources.
- Identify promising technologies being developed that could establish Texas as a leader in emerging industries. Examine the adequacy and focus of research in these areas and the state's efforts to commercialize proven technologies. House Committee on Technology, Economic Development and Workforce.
- Study impact of windblown herbicides on grape-growing and other agricultural production. Make recommendations for improving the safety and quality of Texas agricultural products. Senate Committee on Agriculture & Rural Affairs.
- Examine state policy on "green" technologies for all state buildings and costs associated with such implementation. House Committee on State Affairs.
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