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Texas

State Legislative Priorities

The Nature Conservancy is a non-profit conservation organization that uses a science-based approach to protect Texas’ vast array of natural resources. As such, we have a stake in advancing sound conservation policies. Below are final updates on the issues in which we are actively engaged during the 84th legislative session.

Water
The Legislature passed bills that relate to regulatory frameworks for aquifer storage and recovery, brackish and marine seawater desalination, and groundwater regulation. The Conservancy was involved in bills to create and extend specific local groundwater conservation districts in Val Verde and Hays counties. While legislation to create a Val Verde County water district stalled, the Legislature did pass a bill that incorporates unregulated areas of the Trinity Aquifer in Hays County under the regulation of the Barton Springs-Edwards Aquifer groundwater district.

Land
The Legislature passed two major pieces of land-related legislation: one transferred the Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program from the General Land Office to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). TPWD also received $2 million and two new employee positions to administer the program, which provides funding for conservation easements. It is an important component to the success of the land trust community in working with private property owners.
The Legislature also eliminated the diversion of the sporting goods sales tax to fund state objectives beyond TPWD.

Gulf
We worked closely with the Legislature on two pieces of legislation related to the sustainable management of oysters. One would have created a commercial license buyback program and the other would have created an oyster mariculture program. Neither piece of legislation passed, but we expect to continue these discussions during the 2015-2016 interim session.

Energy
We saw a significant victory this session—legislation that would have repealed Texas’ Renewable Portfolio Standard was defeated. Although Texas has already surpassed its 2025 goal, this type of legislation would have signaled that Texas is no longer committed to renewable energy. There were also several bills filed that prohibited, in one form or another, the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan. None of them passed, which assures Texas flexibility in implementing the rule, should it be adopted by EPA. A bill requiring a study on the use of renewables in desalination also passed.

State Budget
The budget included many conservation accomplishments this session. The Legislature allocated 100 percent of the sporting goods sales tax available to TPWD to the department; included in that sum is a net increase of $89.5 million to the department’s state and local parks grant appropriations.

The Texas Water Development Board received $2.3 million to fund an effort with regional water planning groups to identify and implement water conservation projects. They received an additional $2 million to map brackish groundwater areas across the State.

The Legislature increased the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s budget for two important programs—the Texas Emission Reduction Plan and Low Income Repair Assistance Program—by $160 million. Both programs reduce emissions from mobile sources and allow Texas to meet ozone standards.
 

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