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Archive for May 4th, 2011

Good news! Yesterday, the Senate Natural Resources Committee took important steps toward getting the TCEQ Sunset bill back on track. They did this by doing two things. First, the bill’s Senate sponsor, Senator Huffman, offered the original bill language as the committee substitute for HB 2694.

Making this substitution means that the Senate version doesn’t have the modifications made by the House–including the Chisum amendments that changed the contested case hearing process.

Second, the set of amendments offered at the hearing did not include the Chisum amendments. What this means is that the Senate will not be able to put those amendments on the bill when it comes to the Senate floor. (This is a technicality of the Senate rules.)

Taken together,  Senate Natural Resources set the Senate up to pass a “clean” version of the TCEQ sunset bill.

This is a major accomplishment that would not have been possible without the calls, email and personal communication from Texans all over the state.

On behalf of everyone working on this legislation in the Capitol and around the state, we would like to thank you for your efforts on this bill.  Honestly, there were a couple of industry lobbyists who looked pretty surprised and downtrodden at the end of the hearing. 

However, we are far from being out of the woods on this bill–and on the attack on contested case hearings.

Once HB 2694 gets through the Senate, it will go to conference committee where the difference between the House and Senate versions of the bill will be worked out, you got it, behind closed doors.

That’s one reason to keep up the pressure on the senators–to let them know in no uncertain terms that we will not stand for the House version of the bill–and that we expect them to stand up for the clean bill.

The attack on contested case hearings continues on the House side in the two stand alone bills the amendments came from–HB 3037 and HB 3251. If and when these bills are scheduled to come to the House floor, we will alert you again to ask for your help.

Thanks in advance for any work you can do on these two bills now–calling your representative today or tomorrow would be a great way to start building awareness that Texans are against these two bills because they attack our right to protect our property.

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Here’s a quick update on the status of the Chisum assaults on the contested case hearing process (also known as the assault on your rights to protect your community and your family from pollution).

HB 3251 – the bill to eliminate the contested case opportunity for air permit amendments to control hazardous air pollutants (mercury, toxics) from coal plants:

  • HB 3251 was pulled from the House calendar for floor action and recommitted to House Environmental Regulation Committee
  • Monday (May 2) it was again reported out of the House Environmental Regulation Committee and is now eligible again to be set by the House Calendars Committee for House floor action
  • The bill was NOT on Tuesday’s house calendar – it could be set for House floor action as early as Wednesday, but bills are beginning to stack up on the House “general state” calendar and several major, controversial bills are already set for House floor action on the “major state” or “emergency” calendar for Wednesday and Thursday

HB 3037 – the bill to switch the burden of proof in contested case
hearings from the pollution permit applicant to the folks contesting the permit:

  • HB 3037 was reported out of House Environmental Regulation Committee a couple of weeks ago but has NOT yet been set by the Calendars Committee for House floor action

BOTTOM LINE FOR THESE BILLS IN THE HOUSE – If your House member is a member of the House Calendars Committee urge them NOT to set either HB 3251 or HB 3037 on any House calendar for floor action. Contact your House member even if they are not on the Calendars Committee and urge them to vote AGAINST the bills if they are brought to the House floor.

HB 2694 – the TCEQ sunset bill that was “polluted” on the House floor by the Chisum amendments that have the identical language as HB 3251 and HB 3037.

  • HB 2694 was heard in the Senate Natural Resources Committee yesterday and the Senate sponsors (Senators Huffman and Hegar) substitute for SB 657 that with none of the House amendments on the bill

BOTTOM LINE FOR THE TCEQ SUNSET BILL IN THE SENATE – If you haven’t done so already, contact your Senator and urge them to “keep the TCEQ sunset bill (now HB 2694) clean” – in other words, the bill should not pass the Senate with the Chisum amendments on the bill.

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