Environment & Energy

ENERGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

Texas Democrats believe we should cherish our environment, and we are committed to preserving, protecting, and defending it. Climate change is real; and it threatens all that we value, from the health of our loved ones to the strength of our economy to the safety and security of Texans and all humankind. As the world’s leader in energy technology and innovation for the past century, Texas must now become the world leader in clean energy and environmental consciousness. Future generations demand this of us, and we must deliver.

The Texas Democratic Party supports policies and programs that:

  • Ensure Texas leads the global clean-energy revolution;
  • Uphold stringent regulations on oil and gas operations;
  • Maintain clean and available water for all Texans;
  • Promote environmental protection, regulation, and enforcement;
  • Reform the Texas Railroad Commission;
  • Preserve Texas’ wildlife, parks, and open spaces; and
  • Improve recycling and waste reduction.

Leading the Global Clean-Energy Revolution

  • Support the Green New Deal, both nationally and in Texas;
  • Focus our talents and experience to lead the world in the development, implementation, and commercialization of clean energy technology and encourage our state and federal governments to take bold action;
  • Reinvigorate a muscular Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that sets and achieves a net zero carbon emissions goal in the U.S. by 2050, with complete transition to renewable energy for transportation and electricity generation by the end of the decade;
  • Reinitiate EPA regulations rolled back by the Trump Administration including the Clean Power Plan, the Regional Haze Rule, the Methane Rule, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, and the Chemical Safety Rule;
  • Rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and providing decisive leadership to combat Climate Change worldwide;
  • Develop a statewide climate action plan that will achieve emission reductions in Texas consistent with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees C”;
  • Institute a carbon tax and re-invest the proceeds in Texas to offset any unlikely increase in energy costs as well as in clean energy technologies that will protect American jobs;
  • Promote strong energy efficiency standards and green building policies;
  • End state and federal subsidies and tax incentives for oil and gas production;
  • Fund the “Texas Emissions Reduction Plan Fund” administered by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to offer incentives for clean vehicles and infrastructure, including electric vehicles and storage;
  • Implement technical and academic programs that place Texas at the forefront of renewable energy, battery, smart grid, building conservation, and electric transportation technology;
  • Fund public education programs that promote the benefits of energy conservation and create knowledge and enthusiasm for Texas’ role in saving our planet; and
  • Offer financial incentives for the manufacturing of American-made equipment for alternative energy, storage, grid, transportation, and conservation to achieve the goal of measurably reducing coal and oil consumption for electricity and transportation in Texas.

Stringent Regulations on Oil and Gas Operations

  • Phase out the ecologically destructive extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and gas emissions because large quantities of methane released in fracking and producing operations are much more powerful in heating our climate than carbon emissions;
  • Impose a moratorium on new fracking wells with a goal of shutting down existing wells by 2026 and a goal of ending the practice of injecting wastewater by 2023;
  • Incentivize the use of recycled water on site in oil and gas operations;
  • Preserve the rights of local governments to regulate oil and gas operations within their communities; and
  • Implement strict no-flaring, gas capture, and methane regulations for old wells, new wells, refineries, and processing equipment through a combination of state policy and federal rules.

Clean Air and Clean and Available Water

  • Enact a state law that prohibits all indoor smoking and vaping in workplaces, restaurants, and bars;
  • Modernize our water management policies in an aggressive manner because in certain parts of the state we are running out of water, and in other parts of the state, we are forced to deal with floods;
  • Recognize that access to clean water and dependable water supplies is a basic human right;
  • Implement aggressive water conservation and reuse practices;
  • Initiate a well-funded state water education campaign to inform Texans about their water sources and how to best conserve and protect them;
  • Require water suppliers to develop and implement effective drought response plans;
  • Protect Texas bays, estuaries, in-stream flows, and wetlands;
  • Reform protections, district boundaries, conservation rules, and water re-use mandates for groundwater conservation districts in the interests of better supporting water self-sufficiency;
  • Reform the “rule of capture” to protect scarce water resources from over-exploitation by for-profit developers;
  • Expand testing of fish and shellfish for mercury, radionuclides, and other contaminants, and notify the public of health risks from water pollution; and
  • Ensure state water plan statutes and regulations address ways to reduce and manage flood risk as well as prevent the destruction of finite water resources.

Environmental Protection, Regulation and Enforcement

  • Ensure that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) protects the health and safety of all Texans because environmental protection, regulation, and enforcement is essential to preserve the health of our people and our quality of life;
  • Reform the way TCEQ commissioners are selected to ensure that the commission is non-partisan and works to protect all Texans and our environment, not just to protect the profits of the industries they are meant to regulate;
  • Require the TCEQ and the EPA to make human health and quality of life paramount when deciding whether or not to grant either an air or wastewater permit;
  • Enact stronger laws and regulations to protect low-income communities and communities of color from environmental racism and environmental injustice;
  • Protect communities of color from environmental racism by establishing an environmental justice office at TCEQ and requiring a cumulative impacts analysis;
  • Inform Texans of hazardous chemicals and materials being stored in their communities;
  • Establish an “Amber-alert style” notification system for chemical releases or accidents;
  • Implement required performance standards and inspections for above-ground petrochemical storage tanks, due to the recurring massive failures of storage tanks;
  • Retire all coal electricity generation as quickly as possible;
  • End the destruction of our forests, water, and other natural resources by coal strip mining and leasing of public lands for fracking;
  • Enforce the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act for all industries;
  • Strengthen the maximum administrative penalties that the TCEQ and the Texas Railroad Commission (TRRC) can assess so that it does not pay to pollute;
  • Require TCEQ to analyze cumulative pollution impacts on downwind communities before making permitting decisions;
  • Re-enforce the rights of all citizens to participate in the permitting process and contested hearings to protect their property, health, and the environment, ensuring recent legislative efforts do not make citizen participation more difficult in contested case hearings; and
  • Halt the plan to import high-level radioactive waste for consolidated storage or disposal in Texas due to risks of water contamination, security concerns, and transportation accidents, and prohibit the transport of high-level radioactive waste on our highways or railways.

Reformation of the Texas Railroad Commission (TRRC)

  • Implement the previous Sunset Commission’s recommendations to improve the functionality of the TRRC, which oversees Texas’ oil & gas operations should not be a rubber stamp for businesses, and change the name of the agency to better reflect its role and jurisdiction;
  • Use TRRC regulatory power as a means of protecting the health, welfare, and property of Texans via regulation of oil and gas operations;
  • Adopt newer, stricter rules on injection wells to prevent earthquakes;
  • Ban political contributions to TRRC Commissioners from the oil industry;
  • Ensure penalties levied by the TRRC are significant enough to deter polluting practices;
  • Require the TRRC to implement a transparent process to confirm that entities declaring common carrier status for pipelines are actually operating as common carriers and not as private entities; and
  • Direct the TRRC to ask for expanded authority over intrastate pipelines to inspect, monitor, and review pipeline safety.

Preservation of Wildlife, Parks, and Open Spaces

  • Preserve recreational and open spaces as essential to a healthy Texas;
  • Increase funding for upkeep, maintenance, and acquisition of state parkland as well as for ensuring sustainability of state parks in light of natural disasters such as the recent drought-caused wildfires;
  • Reward those who voluntarily protect threatened and endangered species on their lands through Safe Harbor Agreements and similar measures;
  • Encourage the large-scale planting of native trees and drought-hardy species to absorb greenhouse gases, improve wildlife habitat, and promote beautification;
  • Affirm the Texas Open Beaches Act and the Texas Constitution’s guarantee of public access to beaches while opposing any actions that endanger this right;
  • Expand the Texas Wildlife Tax Exemption as an effective program to provide support for Texas wildlife; and
  • Support the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act and support the preservation and reintroduction of Endangered Species.

Recycling and Waste Reduction

  • Reduce the use of natural resources, while supporting reuse and recycling;
  • Encourage the reduction of use of unnecessary single-use plastics;
  • Keep e-waste out of the waste stream, including retailer take-back programs for electronics;
  • Offer financial and other incentives for communities to provide residential recycling; and
  • Ensure local control of waste reduction through state regulation that allows municipalities to address the issues with ordinances that may be more restrictive than state laws when necessary.