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Posts Tagged ‘mark strama’

Well, it’s official– and let the bloodbath begin.

Texas Tribune graphic of gains in congressional seats

Texas Tribune graphic of gains in congressional seats

Texas has been growing (this we knew), but by enough to mean that we will get 4 new Congressional seats.  Much of our growth has been occurring in suburbs and exurbs, and we’ve been losing relative population in rural areas, so it will be interesting to see how our Congressional and Legislative seats are reapportioned.

How these district lines will be drawn are now up to the Legislature, who will draw the maps that they, themselves, will run in.  Obviously, this creates a serious conflict of interest, as instead of having voters choose their representatives, we have representatives choosing their voters.

Some have guessed that the sudden party switch of the now-tilde-less Rep. Aaron Pena may be due to his desire to run for Congress– getting a seat at the table to carve up a custom-made Congressional seat would certainly make that tempting.  And this is exactly the kind of problem that we have when Legislators draw their own districts.

Given Texas’ troubled history with redistricting, including but not limited to the illegal redistricting plan forced through the Lege by Tom DeLay and the subsequent flight of Democratic lawmakers to Oklahoma, it is time for Texas to do the right thing and move to a system of independent redistricting.

Many states have adopted this vital reform, and Texas has considered this before, including bills in the last Legislative session by Rep. Mark Strama, a Democrat, and Senator Jeff Wentworth, a Republican.

The problem is, partisan politics is getting in the way of what is a bipartisan-supported reform measure.  Neither party wants to give up the possibility of being able to control redistricting, as Democrats believe demographic changes are moving in their favor, and Republicans think they can maintain control over a traditionally conservative state.  As to who is right and who is wrong, I don’t care.  But both parties need to be less like the partisan animals they so often can be, and more like Frodo.  (please forgive my nerd birdwalk here, but it illustrates an important point)

Frodo didn’t want to get rid of the ring of power, and it corrupted him, but he needed to get rid of it.  Unfortunately, when faced with the choice and standing at the precipice, he failed to make the right choice.  He had to have the ring forcibly taken from him, and cast into the fire.  I hate to compare “the people” to Gollum, but that’s what we have to do– bit the ring of power off of our leaders’ fingers and destroy it forever, so they can deal with more important issues, like, oh, say, $20-$25 billion dollar deficits and such.

Whatever bloodletting occurs over the upcoming redistricting fight (and there will be a fight), it ought to be accompanied by a bipartisan support for an independent, non-partisan redistricting plan.

And for a little bit more fun:

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A recent poll shows that voters are more inclined to vote for a candidate that voted for the Federal climate change and renewable energy legislation than for those who didn’t. This is interesting in a time in which many conservative groups are advocating that climate change is a hoax and humans don’t need to intervene to save the planet.  Or, that (even worse) voters just know.. they just KNOW that policies like cap and trade are just a hidden energy tax and they won’t tolerate it at the ballot box.

This poll should be eye-opening to many of the Texas local and federal candidates (and it is worth noting that both of the competitive US House races in Texas are ones where the incumbent voted NO on the American Clean Energy and Security Act). Even more surprising, very few candidates campaign on clean energy in a state where energy makes a great deal of the revenue. And despite how much the governor boasts about Texas leading in renewable energy, Texas is falling behind to a couple of other states, notably California.


Although it seems a scarce phenomenon, a few Texas candidates have climate change and clean energy as part of their campaign. We wanted to highlight the campaigns of a couple of these candidates. *

Last month, Bill White, gubernatorial candidate, announced his energy plan and he explicitly said that clean energy (solar in particular) will be the future of Texas.

Texas can remain the energy capital of the world if we lead in new energy development. That’s why we must educate Texans for high-demand, high-paying clean energy jobs, promote job growth in construction and manufacturing, and invest in science and technology research,” said Bill White in a speech in Lubbock last month.

Mark Strama,  who is running for re-election for his seat in the Texas House of Representatives, has been airing a campaign ad where he says “For the past hundred years, Texas has prospered as the leader of energy, but promising new energy technologies are being developed in other states and other countries.” Strama, who chairs the Technology, Economic Development & Workforce Committee, introduced a couple of green bills in the last legislative session and it looks like he will continue this effort during the forthcoming session. Yesterday, he facebooked about “a promising development” of a Bastrop clean energy park.


On the Congressional level, Representative Charlie Gonzalez includes clean energy and climate change on his legislative agenda. According to his website, in order to “address threats faced to our country and our planet by climate change, America needs an energy policy that relies on resources that are both clean and efficient.” Gonzalez points out that the issue of climate change is tied to the nation’s energy policy.
Texas needs more politicians to come out for renewable energy and those who tell their constituents that it doesn’t create more jobs and revenue for the state, they are simply ignoring the facts facts. According to a recent report, a robust renewable energy market in Texas can create as many as 23,000 jobs and almost 3 billion in revenue every year for the next 10 years. Strama is right, Texas does have a future in renewables and it is time for Texas politicians to “put solutions above ideology and Texas above politics.”

* Public Citizen does not endorse any political candidate and/or party. Nothing in this opinion blog ought to be construed as an endorsement of any kind. The author’s words are his own.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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imagesGood mooooooorning Texas!  Just woke up, haven’t even gotten out of my pajamas or had my coffee (okay, I’m running a little late), but I couldn’t wait a moment longer to spread the good news.  We’ve hit the big Times.

Yes, that Times.  The New York Times.

Check out the following post from Kate Galbraith at the New York Times Green, Inc blog.  Look for cameos by our very own David Power, Rep. Mark Strama, and the Austin Solar Plant.

TEXAS AIMS FOR SOLAR DOMINANCE

The Lone Star State leads the country in wind-power. Now Texas aims to ramp up its solar production too.

This week the state senate is considering an avalanche of bills that would boost state incentives for solar power, and the entire legislative session has become known as the “solar session.”

Altogether, according to David Power, the deputy director of Public Citizen Texas, a consumer and environmental advocacy group, there are 69 renewable energy bills before the legislature, and over 50 of them promote solar power – far more than ever before.

“There are senators and representatives that are talking about solar that have never mentioned the word probably in their lives,” he said. “We’ve actually heard the term ‘global warming,’ and two years ago that was called ‘the G word’ – you didn’t talk about it.”

Mark Strama, a state representative who is a leading promoter of renewable energy, has introduced at least five green bills this year (including a measure that would allow local governments to create a property tax financing program for solar, along the lines of several California cities).

“It just seems like everybody recognizes our leadership in wind, and that government policy got us where we are today in wind,” he told me last month.

In solar, he added, “We need to catch up.”

Some businesses, concerned about higher energy prices, urge caution.

“The state should avoid picking economic winners and losers in our economy through subsidizing solar – or any energy source – at the expense of the residential, commercial and industrial consumers who contribute significantly to the Texas economy,” said Luke Bellsynder, the executive director of the Texas Association of Manufacturers, in an e-mail message.

He also said, however, that his group supported incentives and tax abatements for solar, and broadening the state’s energy portfolio.

Earlier this month, the city of Austin, which is aggressively pursuing renewable power, unanimously gave a go-ahead to a private company to build the largest photovoltaic plant in the country, so that the local utility, Austin Energy, can buy the electricity produced.

However, the city met fierce opposition from struggling local technology firms and other groups, who complained about the prospect of higher electric bills.

 

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Last week was pretty crazy for Austin — SXSW came in like a lion, and I’ll admit I am quite pleased that the city is laying quietly like a lamb once again.  But though Sixth Street may be back to its sleepy Monday morning self, Public Citizen’s office is back in full swing.  We’ve got a lot coming up this week: Solar Day in the Senate, Energy Efficiency hearings galore, a press conference and hearing on Sen. Ellis’ coal moratorium bill… and that just brings us to Tuesday.  But before we launch headfirst into the environmentalist’s version of March Madness, let’s take a moment to regroup from last week.

From the good folks at Alliance for a Clean Texas, check out this mid-week review.  A taste:

With meetings of the House and Senate State Affairs committees, House Energy Resources, House Environmental Regulation and not one but two meetings of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, the environmental agenda is in full swing in the 81st Session. This morning, Senator Lucio and Representative Gallego led a press conference highlighting legislation filed that supports investment in emerging renewable energy such as solar and geothermal. (The entire press packet is available here.) Among the benefits to investment in renewable energy? Green jobs, for one. (Stay on the lookout for green hardhats in the Capitol. You never know who’ll turn up wearing one.)

For more information on our St. Patty’s Day press conference with Sierra Club, check out Floor Pass’ Luck O’ the Lege post.  You heard right, the number of renewable energy bills this session has doubled compared to last.  As Mark Strama noted at the conference, “if you can just get everyone that filed a renewable energy bill to vote for a renewable energy bill, you’ll pass them all.”  We should be so lucky!

Legislators who have authored Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) bills held a press conference this morning to announce that the number of renewable energy bills filed has doubled from last session to this session. For those yet unfamiliar with the jargon, RPS is a policy tool that sets a goal for providing a certain percentage of total energy used from renewable sources like wind and biomass. You can find descriptions of the RPS bills here.

Check our Flickr photostream for photos from the press conference, and stay tuned to stay in the loop this week!

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The House Technology, Economic Development and Workforce Committee met today to discuss HB 516, a bill to establish and fund a green job skills training program under the Texas Workforce Commission.  Representative Mark Strama (D-Austin) authored the bill, which specifies green jobs as being “jobs in the field of renewable energy or energy efficiency.” These include jobs in energy efficient building, construction, and retrofitting, renewable electric power, biofuels, deconstruction and reuse of materials, energy efficiency assessments, manufacturing of sustainable products, and manufacturing using sustainable processes and materials. Considering the fact that Texas unemployment rate has hit a 19-year high and is home to an increasingly environmentally-conscious public, creating green jobs simply makes sense.  Austin City Council’s recent approval and the public’s support of the Webberville solar plant shows that there is local a push for a greener economy. The fact that $43 billion of the recently passed stimulus package is slated towards energy, especially green energy, speaks volumes about what direction the country would like to go towards its use of energy. If the bill does pass, federal funding will be the principal source of money. (more…)

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2_18_09-001Bright and early yesterday morning, US Representative Lloyd Doggett, State Senator Rodney Ellis, State Representative Mark Strama, and environmental and civil rights advocate Van Jones stood together to tout the Alliance for a Clean Texas’ Texas Energy Future: Clean Jobs, Green Power Conference.

Rodney Ellis opened up the press conference, stating that this year’s legislative session looks to be a very green session.  He also mentioned, as he has before, that the legislature is at a crucial moment in terms of climate change action. If the legislature doesn’t act this year, the federal government will likely pass and begin implementing comprehensive global warming legislation before the state legislature will have a chance to meet again.  If Texas is not prepared for this kind of drastic policy change, we may not have a chance to address these issues again until 2011.

Senator Ellis then gave the mic over to the group he termed the “Dapper Three” (swoon!).

Continue Reading and watch video of Van Jones after the jump! (more…)

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At last!  I can fill you in on Monday’s fantastic solar press conference at the capitol!

Public Citizen Director Tom "Smitty" Smith and Senator Rodney Ellis

Senator Rodney Ellis and Public Citizen Director Tom "Smitty" Smith

Public Citizen, Environment Texas and the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club hosted a statewide round of press conferences this week to roll out our solar report, Texas Solar Roadmap — which of course can be downloaded at www.cleanenergyfortexas.org. Our report highlights how a robust solar program would help put Texans back to work, reduce peak energy prices, curb climate change, improve air quality, and position the state as a world leader for solar production. The full report is a pretty good read, but if you’re short on time I suggest the condensed version, Wildcatting the Sun.

Our press conference in Austin was particularly exciting because we were in such great company. Senators Troy Fraser, Leticia Van de Putte, Kirk Watson, Rodney Ellis, and Representatives Mark Strama and Rafael Anchia all appeared and championed the solar bills they have introduced thus far.

anchia

shapiro

Rafael Anchia’s HB 278 and Florence Shapiro’s SB 427 would require the state’s electric utilities to support the development of 2000 megawatts of solar and other on-site renewable technologies by offering direct incentives to consumers and businesses.

This is right in line with Public Citizen’s distributed solar goal, outlined in both Wildcatting the Sun and Texas Solar Roadmap . According to our report , such a standard could lead to installations on as many as 500,000 roofs in Texas by 2020 at a cost of about 98 cents per month per Texan (Polls have shown that 81% of Texas voters are willing to pay up to a dollar a month to encourage solar power. What about you?). This investment would create an estimated 22,000 jobs and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide emissions by 29 million tons, the equivalent of taking 4.3 million cars off the road for a year.

Anchia stressed that this should be Texas’ solar session because it would answer two of our major challenges: air quality, and global warming.

solar_power_lege_09_presser_0041Senator Fraser was the first legislator to speak, proclaiming that this would be Texas’ solar session. Chairman of the Business and Commerce Committee, Fraser is well positioned to be an effective solar champion. As such, Fraser was particularly proud to forecast a sunny session for solar power. He joked that there are so many solar bills being filed this session, they are going to have to lay them all out at once and have a “solar day” where they can pick out the best bills and key components of each (this is the second time I’ve heard him say this though, so he may be serious. If so, you better bet I’ll be there with bells on!)

Fraser also said that he found the idea enumerated in Kirk Watson’s bills — that Texas was very successful in promoting wind power but missed out on manufacturing opportunities — particularly in need of our attention.

Fraser’s big solar bill is SB 545, which

would create a five-year program for distributed solar generation incentives offered through the state’s transmission and distribution utilities. The incentive program would be funded by a nominal monthly fee on residential, commercial and industrial customers.

Check out his press release from last week, when that bill was filed, for more information. Or if you’re feeling really geeky, read the bill. Watson has also filed SB 546, relating to the state goal for energy efficiency. This bill sets stepped goals for how much of the state’s growth in energy efficiency will be met by efficiency, culminating in a goal of getting 50% load growth through efficiency by 2015.

solar_power_lege_09_presser_0061Senator Van de Putte was then called up to champion CPS Energy’s new distributed energy commitment and her own solar in schools bill, SB 598. This would set up a pilot loan program to retrofit public schools with PV panels and other efficiency measures. Solar on schools is a pretty smart idea, because during summer months when the lights are off and their electricity use dips way down, they could make a lot of money pumping of energy back into the grid.

Senator Watson, a member of the Business and C0mmerce Committee and my Very Own senator, has three solar bills introduced so far. (more…)

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