For Immediate Release (Wednesday, November 30, 2005):
Contact: Ken Kramer, 512-477-1729
Donna Hoffman, 512-477-1729 or 512-299-5776
Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club consists of over 25,000 members.
The Chapter spans the entire state of Texas, excepting El Paso, which
is part of the Rio Grande Chapter.
Located in Austin, the Lone Star Chapter's State Conservation Office
serves Sierrans as their grassroots communications center. We also provide
Sierrans with a full time professional activist staff employed to represent
Sierrans as we fight at the state level to protect and conserve Texas'
diverse and valuable natural heritage.
Interim Study Charges Announced for Texas House of Representatives
Speaker Issues Study Topics for Committees
In October Texas House of Representatives Speaker Tom Craddick issued the biennial list of “interim study charges” for the standing committees of the Texas House. These “interim charges” are the topics that the committees are directed to study in the months leading up to the regular session of the 80 th Texas Legislature, which will open in January 2007.
Interim studies serve several purposes. They provide an opportunity for legislators to learn more about issues they may attempt to address with new legislation in the coming session. They may also provide a forum for examining the implementation of legislation passed in the previous session. Finally, interim studies give legislators the chance to monitor and provide oversight of the state agencies within the jurisdiction of respective committees (for example, the House Natural Resources Committee has legislative oversight of the Texas Water Development Board).
Following are some of the House committees that the Sierra Club routinely monitors and the environmentally relevant interim study topics assigned to those committees. All of these committees are assigned to monitor the agencies and programs under their respective jurisdictions.
Agriculture & Livestock Committee
Research and determine the potential contributions of Texas agriculture to energy supply, including examination of the role of ethanol, biodiesel, and biomass.
Determine if a new comprehensive water conservation program is needed with the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board focusing on water conservation and water supply enhancement. (Joint Interim Charge with the House Committee on Natural Resources)
Border and International Affairs Committee
Review the domestic and international use of economic development and tourism resources to increase commerce in the border region, including two border Regional Centers of Innovation and Commercialization that will be funded through the Emerging Technology Fund.
Joint studies with the Transportation Committee (see below).
County Affairs Committee
Examine the advisability and probable impacts of creating a system of graduated ordinance-making authorities for counties with populations over one million based on population densities and unique geographic and environmental needs.
Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee
Research and explore new ways to promote economic development through increased tourism in the state.
Energy Resources Committee
Review the effects of universal bonding on the oil and gas industry with respect to the population of oil and gas operators, economic consequences of bonding and whether bonding has an effect on the number of abandoned wells being placed into the Oil Field Cleanup Fund.
Examine the feasibility of offering economic incentives to promote the plugging of inactive wells by operators.
Study alternatives to increased appropriation to the Railroad Commission, including exploration of potential efficiencies, for administrative functions currently funded by the Oil Field Cleanup Fund.
Examine technological advancements in the energy industry. Discuss whether creating legislative incentives for use of these technologies is appropriate.
Study the efficacy of private litigation and government agency investigation to accomplish remediation of natural resources impacted by historical, and current oil and gas operations.
Examine the feasibility of additional nuclear generated power in Texas, focusing on supply and demand issues, current state nuclear projects, and possible federal government assistance.
Environmental Regulation Committee
Examine the State Implementation Plan (SIP) to determine if data is being collected adequately; if recent changes to the SIP are moving the state closer to EPA requirements; and if not evaluate if any midcourse corrections necessary.
Consider ways to streamline the permitting process, including but not limited to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of public notice provisions and expanding the use of the Internet for permit application and renewals.
Evaluate environmental enforcement to determine if a streamlined permitting process would provide more resources for enforcement; whether more enforcement leads to more compliance; if stronger incentives for high performers would be effective; and if improvement can be made to the compliance history program.
Research the current use of performance and public accountability measures in state agencies; explore possible improvements and innovations.
Land & Resource Management Committee
Determine the appropriateness of non-elected governmental bodies exercising the power of eminent domain to condemn property.
Consider the potential establishment of a single and uniform approach to dealing with situations involving overlapping, extraterritorial jurisdictions.
Natural Resources Committee
Explore the benefits and concerns associated with Municipal Utility Districts (MUDs), including an assessment of the appropriateness of granting districts the additional powers of other special districts.
Consider the potential for increased outdoor water savings through landscape water conservation, including irrigation audit requirements, turf replacement programs and the provision of certain landscape options for prospective home buyers.
Examine state wastewater re-use policies, including an assessment of potential changes or clarifications to the Texas Water Code.
Continue the study of the Commission on Water for Environmental Flows, and further evaluate options for providing adequate environmental flows.
Determine if a new comprehensive water conservation program is needed with the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, focusing on water conservation and water supply enhancement. (Joint Interim Charge with the House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock)
Regulated Industries Committee
Gather and review information on the generation capacity and fuel diversity of the Texas electric market. Recommend changes to Texas law that would encourage new investment and technological innovation in emerging energy fields, such as clean coal and next generation nuclear technologies.
Examine the feasibility of additional nuclear generated power in Texas, focusing on supply and demand issues, current state nuclear projects, and possible federal government assistance. (Joint Interim Charge with Energy Resources)
State Affairs Committee
Monitor agencies and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction, including identifying possible ways to merge or streamline agency functions to produce long-term financial benefits to the state and better efficiency of the agencies.
Examine the transportation planning and coordination of land use, including planning for large transportation corridors.
Consider the rail relocation needs of the major metropolitan areas in Texas. Identify possible funding sources.
Study the economic infrastructure of the state’s main trade corridors with special emphasis on the ability to enhance trade and transportation through increased use of technology. (Joint Interim Charge with the House Committee on Border and International Affairs)
Study the current border and coastal transportation infrastructure and any enhancements needed to meet growing international trade and economic development. (Joint Interim Charge with House Committee on Border and International Affairs)