News

Legislature Exceeds Expectations in Green Legislation, Damages Environment With Deep Cuts in State Budget

August 4th, 2011

Leading environmental group names best, worst lawmakers; scores legislature

AUSTIN, TX—The Texas League of Conservation Voters today unveiled their 2011 Legislative Scorecard and named select state lawmakers to their best and worst legislators’ list. TLCV Executive Director called this year’s session a “mixed bag of successes and failures for environmental policy in Texas.”

“What is striking about the Texas Legislature this year is the sheer volume of environmental legislation considered and the surprising amount of good bills passed and signed into law,” added Weinberg. “Still, to be certain, the Lone Star State has a long way to go before it’s truly green.”

The TLCV Scorecard offered a comprehensive assessment of environmental legislation that cuts across a wide range of issues. Each vote scored represents a clear choice for our elected officials to uphold the conservation values that millions of Texans share.

Conservation highlights of the 82nd Regular Legislature included:

• The nation’s first law requiring public disclosure of the chemical compounds used in hydraulic fracturing (For additional perspective from TLCV’s Weinberg, see: http://ow.ly/5TrMW);
• Programs to incentivize the use of more alternative fuels and alternative-fuel vehicles;
• A measure to encourage landowners to partner with the state to increase water conservation;
• A number of changes or improvements to help improve access to solar energy;
• The state’s first television recycling program; and
• Numerous bills aimed at improving energy efficiency in the public and private sectors.

Conservation lowlights included:

• Weakening of the contested case hearings process, an important tool for citizens to challenge permits of big polluters;
• Authorization for importation of radioactive waste into Andrews County in West Texas; and
• The House’s passage of a resolution calling on Congress to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.

“The single biggest strikeout in this year’s scorecard had to be the state budget,” said Weinberg. “Just as it did for education and health and human services, lawmakers gutted funding for the environment and conservation, including the state’s park system.”

The state’s leading environmental group also announced the best and worst legislators of the 2011 Session. Senator John Carona (R-Dallas), Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin), Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin), Rep. Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) and Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) garnered top honors on the best list for their work and commitment to advancing conservation legislation.

Sen. Carona and Rep. Keffer stood out among the “best” list for their leadership on a wide range of environmental issues. It was Rep. Keffer who worked tirelessly to pass the nation’s first hydraulic fracturing disclosure law, and Sen. Carona demonstrated extraordinary leadership on a number of energy efficiency bills. On the Democrat side of the aisle, Sen. Watson successfully shepherded a landmark bill on water stewardship and television recycling, while Rep. Strama was credited for his leadership in passing legislation that encourages the use of cleaner burning natural gas in transportation.

Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) topped the list of worst legislators after a late session move to try to give polluters blanket immunity against nuisance lawsuits, a measure that united not only environmentalists but also landowners and property rights advocates against the measure that was ultimately stripped out of the bill.

Joining Rep. Bonnen on TLCV’s Worst Legislators List were Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Houston), Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa), Rep. Kelly Hancock (R-Fort Worth) and Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Waco).

To read the full list of best and worst legislators, as well as honorable and dishonorable mentions, visit www.tlcv.org. The TLCV Scorecard also broke down the decisive votes or legislation that impacted these awards.

On this year’s scorecard, the average House Democrat score on the TLCV Scorecard was 93 percent. The average House Republican notched a 65 percent score. Environmental legislation found a friendlier forum in the Texas Senate with 94 percent of Senate Democrats and 79 percent of Senate Republicans voting for the environment.

For the full update on the hits, the misses and the strikeouts for pro-environment legislation in the 2011 Legislative Session, read the entire TLCV Scorecard online: www.tlcv.org.

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The Texas League of Conservation Voters works to preserve and enhance the quality of life of Texans by making conservation a top priority with Texas elected officials, political candidates and voters. Find us online at http://www.tlcv.org and follow us on Twitter @tlcv.

Media contact: David Weinberg, (512) 477-4424