March 11, 2007
A week is a long, long time if you’re left hanging, waiting, anticipating something that either makes your day or just makes life worth going on. I know. I know. The Watson Wire does that for so many. Frankly, it’s a little bit of a burden. But I’m about serving you. So, this week, there’s no need to wait. Since I just know you wanted it, and probably needed it, I’ve decided to send a few extra Watson Wires to update you on part of my legislative package. As I noted on Friday, the deadline for filing bills passed last week. Today, I’ll tell you about a few of the environmental bills I’ve filed.Trying to preserve the environment in innovative ways has always been a mission for me. We did some unprecedented things when I was mayor to protect the environment, setting aside more than 15,000 acres of preserve land in the Barton Springs watershed and creating a unique partnership to proactively clean up our air. I’m proud that the Texas Nature Conservancy gave me its “Leadership Award,” and the Save Our Springs Alliance gave me its “Soul of the City Award” for my work as mayor. In the early ’90s, I chaired the state agency charged with improving air quality and was recognized with awards from the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and the American Lung Association.This new job allows me to try to protect our water and air in much wider-ranging ways. Our lush, beautiful, vital natural resources help make Austin and Texas what they are. Our state needs to do far more to protect these resources for our children and their children. Sadly, we’re not preparing for the future. We are, at best, reacting. Our environment suffers for that, which means our economy ultimately suffers, too. Talented, creative people, who will define which regions succeed, can live and work anywhere they want. They won’t go where it’s ugly. Or where the air is dirty. Or where the water isn’t plentiful and clean. So, here’s a quick rundown of some of the bills I filed to protect the air our kids will breathe, the water they’ll drink and swim in, and the jobs they’ll need to provide and care for their own children. I’m also posting longer descriptions of the bills on the Speeches page of kirkwatson.com until we can figure out a better system (it seems anyone who knows anything about the Internet, including the terrific and very capable crew at Trademark Media, is at South by Southwest this week; I feel like that little goober kid in the movie Home Alone – virtually home alone, that is). Senate Bill 747: Protect the Aquifer in a DroughtAs this drought strengthens its grip on Central Texas (yesterday’s rain notwithstanding), we need to make sure that the Barton Springs-Edwards Aquifer Conservation District has the tools it needs to ensure that there’s enough water for everyone. Read more.Senate Bill 1687: Fight Global WarmingThere is no question – at least scientifically – that human activity is contributing significantly to global warming and climate change. The chief culprit, of course, is carbon dioxide. It’s been difficult getting the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to even look at carbon dioxide as it issues permits for coal plants, industrial facilities, and regional air quality plans. SB 1687 would require the agency to take responsibility for the present and take leadership for the future. Read more.Senate Bill 1771: Clean the Air If you live in a Texas city, chances are your air is unhealthy or perilously close to it. Against this backdrop, TXU and several other energy companies have proposed at least 17 new coal plants for Texas. SB 1771 would hold these companies responsible for their actions and require them to clean up their own messes. Read more. Senate Bill 1800: “Hold them to their promises”In pledging to build 11 new coal plants in our state, TXU made a number of promises. When we learned a few weeks back that TXU is up for sale, we heard another round of promises. The new buyers were committing to scuttle plans for eight coal plants. They also promised to invest in energy efficiency and conservation studies, and then to build much, much cleaner Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle plants in Texas. This bill would require that the promises we keep hearing will be law. And enforceable. Read more.Senate Bill 1770: Find an Energy StrategyTexas is far too reactive to environmental threats. What’s worse, the state doesn’t even react to threats very well. SB 1770 would install a common-sense process for the state to decide for itself what its energy needs are without having to react to the latest corporate fad or press release. It would require the state to create a comprehensive energy and environmental policy. Read more.Senate Bill 669: Keep 71 ScenicState Highway 71 through the Hill Country is one of Texas’ gems. But the road is also under enormous pressure from development. SB 669 would forbid future billboards on Highway 71 between Austin’s city limits and SH 16 through Llano. Read More.Senate Bill 529: Clean Up School BusesYou know that exhaust from diesel engines is dirty. You know that most school buses have diesel engines. This unsettling equation gets worse with the knowledge that dirty air is the worst inside a school bus, where more than 40 toxic chemicals mingle with children who ride the buses twice a day. SB 529 would direct money from the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan to this vital clean-air cause and clean up these buses. Read More.Senate Bill 1324: Recycle Your E-Waste Texans generate a massive amount of discarded computers, monitors and display devices, and other “e-waste” every year. Not only does this material threaten to overwhelm our landfills, but it raises concerns about chemicals such as mercury and lead that power our machines and threaten our environment. SB 1324 says that at the end of a product’s useful life, a consumer should be able to return the product to the manufacturer for recycling and to keep them out of the landfills. Read more.Senate Bills 1688, 1689, and 1690: Prepare for SH 130After working through the summer with elected officials up and down the State Highway 130 corridor, I filed these three bills to give jurisdictions tools that will help them get their arms around the growth that the road is bringing them. The bills also will allow the region to do what we’ve said we want to do: grow in less environmentally sensitive areas, away from the Edwards Aquifer. This is consistent with work I did as mayor, when we created the Drinking Water Protection Zone in the western and southwestern areas, and the Desired Development Zone to the east, so we could channel our growth toward a place far from our fragile environmental assets. Read an editorial supporting the package.Thanks for your interest in these vital issues. Working together and supporting each other, I know we can make Tex
as a better, cleaner place – for now, and for the future.