Greg Abbott: End city bans on bags, fracking, tree cutting

Declaring that freedom and private property rights should not be bound by city lines, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott on Thursday called for doing away with a “patchwork quilt” of local bans on everything from paper and plastic bags to fracking that he said threatens to turn Texas into California.


Southwest Austin Growth Sparks Environmental Concerns

"The reason it hadn’t been largely developed before is because it’s a really special area, the gateway to the Hill Country and it overlies the Edwards aquifer, the drinking supply for over a million Central Texans," Luke Metzger with Environment Texas said. "There’s increasing development pressure over Southwest Austin and the Hill Country. That can come with significant impact to the water aquifer."

"We, of course, are in a record drought. We need to keep every drop of water we have and keep it clean, and the more that we’re developing over an important water source, that puts the water supply at risk," Metzger said.


South Texas economic hopes hitched to SpaceX

Noise pollution and contamination from the chemicals sprayed during rocket launches are among the issues to consider, Metzger said. Ocelots, a threatened leopard species, face the greatest risks, he said. The animals are already vulnerable to being run over by cars, and the heavy traffic of site construction would pose an even greater threat to the spotted felines.

“An area surrounded by state parks is not appropriate for industrial activity,” Metzger said. “When Texas has such little public land — less than 5 percent is publicly protected as state parks — we need to be taking the best care of the parks we do have.”


Area State Representative Backing Away From Fight Against Plastic Bag Ordinances

Rachel Stone, an attorney at the Austin-based Environment Texas, said the organization is thrilled the Alamo City is considering the ban. “Environment Texas applauds Councilman Medina for taking leadership on these important issues,” Stone said in a statement. “San Antonio made a commitment to take strides towards a more sustainable future, and it is exciting to see the city forging ahead on that path.”

Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, said he is glad Springer is giving up the bag ban fight. “I think it’s great,” Metzger said. “We think cities should have the right to decide what is best for them, and plastic bags have become a major problem … they are polluting our rivers, creating blight in neighborhoods and it costs the taxpayers to keep their communities clean.”


After Proposition 6 what comes next?

While Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to create a new fund for the development of water projects, don't expect to see an explosion of construction for quite some time.

First, state and regional water planners need to work out the details of how they will rank the proposed ventures and to finalize other rules. Financial assistance is not expected to start until March 2015.

Proposition 6, which voters supported Nov. 5 by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, creates a revolving loan account using $2 billion from the state's rainy day fund. The money, which could be leveraged to provide $27 billion in assistance over the next 50 years, will help pay for infrastructure and conservation initiatives to bolster the drought-ridden state's water supplies.

Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, said his organization will be lobbying the regional water planning groups to prioritize conservation projects in their areas and the state board to consider the environmental impact of proposed projects in its rankings.

“Conservation, if we do it first, helps us avoid hugely expensive projects that we might not need down the road,” Metzger said.


Activist launches petition in advance of bag ban vote

When it returns from summer break in August, the City Council will take up Dwaine Caraway's proposed ordinance banning, among other things, single-use plastic bags. In advance of the showdown, Luke Metzger, founder and director of Austin-based Environment Texas, has launched a petition in support of the ban on MoveOn.org.


SpaceX chief happy with Texas effort

With action by the Texas Legislature, the state appears closer than ever to landing a rocket launch site near Brownsville.
Legislators hoping to woo the California-based company SpaceX to build a spaceport passed two bills and provided $15 million for infrastructure during the session.
At issue is the threat of "noise, heat, vibration, fencing and hazardous material spills" from the proposed spaceport that could lower the value of nearby Boca Chica Park and the Lower Rio Grande Valley Natural Wildlife Refuge, Environment Texas has argued.


SpaceX public hearing Tuesday

In 2012, SpaceX applied for a permit with the FAA that, if approved, would allow the company to launch rockets from an area near Boca Chica Beach

A hearing to obtain public comments on SpaceX's draft environmental impact statement will be held Tuesday at the ITECC on Mexico Boulevard in Brownsville

Environment Texas said the rocket launches would endanger wildlife in the Boca Chica area, the site SpaceX or Space Exploration Technologies is considering in Texas.


SpaceX hearing set for Tuesday in Brownsville

In 2012, SpaceX applied for a permit with the FAA that, if approved, would allow the company to launch rockets from an area near Boca Chica Beach.

However, an Austin-based environmental group last year began an online petition drive to stop SpaceX from building a launch pad near Brownsville. Environment Texas said the rocket launches would endanger wildlife in the Boca Chica area, the site SpaceX or Space Exploration Technologies is considering in Texas.


South Texas Spaceport receives boost

Federal regulators have released a preliminary report that says California-based SpaceX can launch rockets from a proposed site near Brownsville without devastating the sensitive environment around Boca Chica beach as long as the company takes steps to protect several endangered species, the water supply and plant life.

Last year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department sent a letter to the FAA outlining its concerns with the project. Environment Texas also launched a petition to stop the proposed construction of the spaceport, citing concerns wildlife could face from "noise, heat, vibration, fencing and hazardous material spills."

"We're certainly not opposing the idea of a spaceport in Texas, but we think that spot could be a danger to the sensitive environment," said Luke Metzger, director of the environmental-advocacy group.