On Wednesday, the House approved major water legislation aimed at managing the environmental flows of the state's rivers and streams. House Bill 3 by Rep. Robert Puente would provide a basin-by-basin approach to managing water levels across the state to ensure adequate flows exist for ecological preservation and commercial activity in the state's rivers, bays, and estuaries. The proposal directs the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to develop guidelines that will govern water levels needed to maintain adequate environmental flows. The guidelines will ensure that future decisions involving water permits are made with the full consideration of downstream effects. The measure would provide certainty for water rights holders and ensure protection of aquatic plants and habitat in streams and lakes, as well as in estuaries and bays located downstream.
On Thursday, the Senate Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on a major air emissions bill which would strengthen the state's ability to comply with the federal Clean Air Act in the Dallas/Fort Worth and the Houston/Galveston/Brazoria areas. Senate Bill 12 by Senator Kip Averitt (R-Waco) expands funding and the use of certain technologies in meeting the federal requirements. The measure would increase funding for the Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP) which provides grants for the reduction of diesel emissions. The bill would also extend the program until 2013. The proposal provides additional funding for the repair by low income owners of automobiles which fail emission inspections tests while also increasing funding for the purchase of newer, lower emission vehicles (the Low Income Repair and Assistance Program or LIRAP). Senate Bill 12 would also mandate energy efficiency standards for certain appliances sold in Texas.