Part 2: Environmental Bills to Watch

By Luke Metzger
Director

A few more bills to watch in the final weeks of session.

Fracking Disclosure: Yesterday, the House approved HB 3328 (Keffer) on second reading. The bill requires drillers of natural gas and oil to publicly disclose each chemical ingredient used in hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) on each well - the first such law in the nation. Anecdotal reports suggest that living near gas extraction sites can cause health impacts, although little formal scientific study has been completed to date. For example, residents Texas communities near hydraulic fracturing gas extraction operations have reported strange odors and health problems including nose bleeds, rashes, burning eyes, breathing difficulty, asthma, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, severe headaches and blackouts. Several residents have developed rare cancers. In Dish, Texas, tests have found a variety of hazardous pollutants related to gas extraction and processing in the air, in well water and in samples of residents’ blood. The bill must be approved on third reading by tomorrow. The Senate Natural Resources committee heard a companion bill by Sen. Nelson today. For a succinct, fun primer on "what the frack is going on with all this fracking going on," check out this cute song and video put together by Studio 20 NYU in collaboration with ProPublica.org.

Energy-wasting Light Bulbs: Yesterday, the House gave final approval to HB 2510 (Lavender), which attempts to skirt a 2007 federal law (signed by President Bush) which requires roughly 25 percent greater efficiency for light bulbs, effectively banning inefficient incandescent light bulbs. After January 1, 2012, halogens (slightly more efficient incandescent light bulbs), CFLs and LEDs will be widely available. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR website, CFL bulbs use 75 percent less energy than a standard incandescent bulb, while lasting 10 times longer. The bill would allow Texas manufacturers to sell inefficient incandescent bulbs in-state (with a Made in Texas stamp). Check out Stephen Colbert’s take on the issue here.

Energy Efficiency: Yesterday, the House gave final approval to SB 1125 (Carona/Anchia) changes the metric of how we calculate energy efficiency requirements for utilities. By tying the goal to peak demand versus load growth (as we do now), we will have a more stable program that doesn’t fluctuate wildly when demand goes down (as it has with the poor economy). According to Businesses for an Energy Efficient Texas, it’ll also boost spending on efficiency in 2013 from the $103 million that we would otherwise spend to $117 million and in 2014 from $115 million to $120 million.