An abridged version of the below ran as an op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman today.
Flooding near Whole Foods in May 2015. Source: Instagram/Caleb Eike Smith
Unfortunately, a good rain washes away more than the drought; it washes away much of man’s interest in providing for the next one, and it washes the supports from under those who know that another dry cycle is coming and who urge their fellows to make ready for it.
— “More Water for Texas” by Walter Prescott Webb (1954)
As a native Austinite, I remember the historic Memorial Day Flood of 1981. I was a little kid and the storm was so intense I asked my Mom if I could sleep in her bed. I remember seeing pictures of grand pianos from Strait Music store and cars from the dealerships floating down Lamar Boulevard, and the original Whole Foods flooding. Austin has changed a lot in the intervening decades, and although many of the store fronts are different, the pictures taken of Lamar this Memorial Day were eerily similar.
In Texas we are used to cycles of drought and flood; we know extreme weather just as we know extreme personalities and politics. But the natural dynamics are changing in Texas, and we can no longer rely on the saving grace of a “rain bomb” to get us out of the next drought. Make no mistake, the next drought is just around the corner. The best way to help Texas conserve water now is to urgently pursue clean energy and better planning between the energy and water sectors. Read More
Being an environmental advocate in Texas may seem like an uphill battle, and I make no bones about the fact it most certainly is. Plus, the Texas Legislature only meets for 140 days every other year, so the frenzy of activity during the Legislative Session (in local parlance, “The Lege”) is intense.
While my Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) colleagues may be able to make impressive strides in protecting their respective states against climate change, we in Texas must take pride in all of our legislative achievements, both big and not so much. It’s these small steps that add up to change in the right direction.
In addition to the many small steps that made up the 2015 Legislative Session, I say with great pride we also had a big win: On June 17, Governor Abbott signed Senate Bill (SB) 991 into law, requiring the General Land Office and the Texas Water Development Board to study the economic and geophysical potential of using solar and wind energy to desalinate brackish groundwater. From concept to law, SB 991 has involved the input and energy of numerous stakeholders – and it paid off. Read More
Also posted in Legislation
Every year, SXSW Eco – one of the most high-profile environmental conferences – selects its programming based on votes from the public. This means anyone, regardless of whether you submitted a panel, can cast a vote.
This year, seven experts from Environmental Defense Fund are featured on dynamic panels that cover everything from solar equity and new utility business models to innovative building efficiency programs and the threat of methane pollution. To make sure EDF and energy-related programming is represented at the conference in Austin, TX this October, we are asking our readers to please vote for your favorite EDF panels and presentations. Read More
Earlier this week, I testified at a hearing of the Texas House Committee on Environmental Regulation, specifically on how Texas will respond to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), the nation’s first-ever limit on carbon pollution from existing power plants. But before I went to the Capitol, my three-year-old daughter asked me where I was going. I told her I was going to work, and she asked me, “Mommy, what are you going to save?” I replied that I was going to save water, and she said, “Good job, Mommy.”
That’s exactly what the CPP could do for Texas: save millions of gallons of water each year by encouraging the state to switch from polluting power sources (like coal plants) to non-polluting sources (such as wind and solar farms) and increase no-water solutions like energy efficiency.
It’s no secret that Texas is currently in the midst of a multi-year drought – yet the vast majority of our electricity comes from sources that contribute to this prolonged drought, namely coal, nuclear, and natural gas. All of these energy sources require copious amounts of water to produce electricity. Read More
Cowboys, frontier grit, accented English, and wild, wide open spaces are just a few of the similarities shared by Texas and Australia. Both places also have an energy-water problem. But, the good news for Texas is that it’s not too late for us to learn from Australia’s mistakes – and a few successes, too.
In July 2014, Australia abandoned its carbon price, which gave Australia, a country with one of the highest per capita emissions of any developed country in the world and uses even more coal than the United States, the largest carbon-price system in the world outside of the European Union. (That is, until California’s program took effect in January 2013—California has the first-ever economy-wide carbon market in North America, potentially linking to other sub-national, national and regional markets around the world.) Since then, the Australian government has been in talks to significantly scale back its renewable energy target (RET), and the months-long squabbling without resolution is threatening the country’s renewable energy sector.
Texas, whose drought started in October 2010, is now in its worst drought on record. And some Texas leaders are taking a similar, short-sighted path as Australia when it comes to rolling back successful clean energy initiatives – ones that could also save scarce water supplies. Currently in the midst of its biennial legislative session, Texas is considering bills that would scrap the state’s successful wind renewable portfolio standard and prevent the state from complying with the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), which establishes the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution. Read More
Source: flickr/Paul Woolrich
We’ve almost made it to the midway point of the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature. As many already know, the Texas Legislature only meets from January to May every other year, so a lot has to get done in these few months.
This midway point is critical because it marks the deadline for Representatives and Senators to file bills, and it signals the rush to the finish line. Once we pass this point, the speed picks up substantially, as do the working hours and pressure.
Most bills that are filed will not make it to the Governor’s desk – for any number of reasons. But it is a good time to check in to see which climate, clean energy, and energy-water nexus bills have been filed this Session. Here’s a look at a few that are likely to rise to the top, and ones we hope will cross the finish line by June 1st. Read More