Environmentalists are keeping an eye on the legislature, playing the waiting game

By by Dianna Wray
Jan. 2, 2011 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 1, 2011 at 7:02 p.m.

The 82nd State Legislature goes into session on Jan. 11, but most of the bills that will impact the environment haven't been filed yet.

City of Victoria Environmental Services Director Jerry James watches the state legislature closely, looking for any bills that will have an impact for the city.

"I haven't seen a bill filed yet that I'm particularly worried about," James said.

State representatives have filed 19 bills touching on environmental and energy issues.

State Rep. Ken Legler has filed a bill related to the inclusion of a draft impact analysis in the notice of rules proposed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

State Rep. Wendy Davis has authored a bill related to allocation of certain money in the Texas emission reduction plan fund to air quality monitoring activity.

However, James said the bills he will be watching closely haven't been filed yet.

"We have to watch them because there are so many of them that may have a detrimental effect to the public or area business owners.

Various water rights issues will be key, he said.

The city of Victoria gets water from the Guadalupe River, whose source is the Edwards Aquifer in San Antonio. James will watch for bills related to the aquifer and its use.

James also expects to see a bill on rule of capture -the right of a landowner to draw as much water from their own property, no matter how it impacts other landowners, he said.

"It's the 'whoever has the biggest pump wins' rule," James said.

Any legislation on use of the Edwards Aquifer will also be a point of concern, James said, since the aquifer is a source to the Guadalupe River.

Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority General Manager Bill West agreed with James, saying that most of the legislation he will be watching hasn't been filed yet.

West said he'll be looking for bills concerning imminent domain and how that impacts water rights.

He'll also be watching for bills on groundwater rights since there is a movement underway to better define groundwater rights.

"From a standpoint of management of water the buzzword is 'conjunctive use'," West said.

Another issue to be watched will be the budget shortfalls. West said every agency will be keeping a sharp eye out to make sure the budget shortfalls in the state aren't passed on to them.

Right now, they are all playing the waiting game.

"It's a tactical thing they're doing," West said, and until the bills are filed, all they can do is watch and wait.



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