At the start of this legislative session, I added a new page to this web site called Legislation. Its purpose: to help people track key pieces of proposed legislation affecting the Lake Houston area that have to do with sand mining and flood mitigation.
On it, you can see summaries of issues, links to the actual text of proposed bills, a “status tracker,” and posts that describe bills in more detail. I update these every few days. If you need to check on updates that have not yet been posted, consult Texas Legislature Online. It’s updated nightly during legislative sessions.
Key Bills Affecting Lake Houston Area
HB13 Creates a flood infrastructure fund of $3.26 billion taken from the Economic Stabilization (Rainy Day) fund for flood planning, mitigation, and infrastructure projects. (Comparable to SB7 below but with some differences.)
HB509 Allows Texas Railroad Commission to regulate APOs with TCEQ. Requires: hydrologic impact study, public notice, public hearings, and provides fines up to $10,000 and 1-year in jail for false statements.
HB 907 Doubles the penalties for not registering a sand mining operation. New penalties can range from $10,000 to $20,000 per year with the total not to exceed $50,000.
HB 908 Provides for penalties up to $50,000 for water code violations and every-other-year inspections.
HB 909 Calls for the TCEQ to adopt and publish best management practices for sand mines (aggregate production operations) that comply with applicable environmental laws and regulations.
HB 1674. Extends water quality protections to the West Fork of the San Jacinto currently enjoyed by the John Graves District on the Brazos as part of a pilot program. Attaches penalties for non-compliance with best practices defined under HB909.
SB 7. Creates a dedicated Texas Infrastructure Fund for flood control planning and the funding of flood planning, mitigation, and infrastructure projects.
SB500. An omnibus appropriations bill that includes funding for SB7 and an amendment that would dedicate $30 million for dredging of the West Fork Mouth Bar in Lake Houston.
Status of Each as of 3/26/19
HB13 Filed on March 7, 2019. Referred to Natural Resources on 3/11. Reported favorably by committee. Sent to Calendars Committee on 3/25.
HB509 Filed Dec. 11, 2018, Referred to Energy Resources 2/20/2019.
HB 907 Filed Jan. 17, 2019, Referred to Environmental Regulation 2/25/2019.
HB 908 Filed Jan. 17, 2019, Referred to Environmental Regulation 2/25/2019.
HB 909 Filed Jan. 17, 2019, Referred to Environmental Regulation 2/25/2019.
HB 1671 Filed on March 4, 2019, Referred to Natural Resources 3/4/2019.
SB 7 Filed on March 6, 2019, Referred to Water & Rural Affairs on 3/7, Public testimony 3/11. Senate passed unanimously by voice vote on 3/20. Received by House on 3/21.
SB500 Approved by Senate on 3/13. Engrossed, sent to House, and referred to Appropriations committee on same day. Approved with changes by House Appropriations on 3/19. The Appropriations Committee analysis of CSSB500 says on page 9, “The substitute does not include an appropriation to the comptroller for the Texas infrastructure resiliency fund or certain other provisions relating to that fund.” A separateHuberty amendment proposed on 3/22 would dedicate $30 million for dredging the West Fork mouth bar in Lake Houston.
Developments to Watch
Nothing has happened yet on any of the sand-mining bills since being sent to committees.
- HB509 is reportedly dead in the water. That’s a shame. It was the only bill that made hydrologists consider the aggregate impact of all mines in an area when permitting an operation. And that is precisely our issue.
- HB907, 908, 909 and 1671, according to Dan Huberty’s office, will soon be scheduled for committee hearings. That’s worth a trip or four to Austin!
SB7 created a Texas Infrastructure Resilience Fund (TIRF) which was funded within SB500, an omnibus appropriations bill. But when SB500 got to the House, the Appropriations Committee deleted funding related to the TIRF – at least temporarily, while the House considers its own HB13. HB13 has many of the same objectives as SB7, but it has not yet reached the House floor for a vote.
Braden Kennedy, an assistant of Senator Brandon Creighton who sponsored SB7 had this to say. “It was unfortunate to see the House remove the funding to TIRF. However, Senator Creighton is confident we can find common ground down the road and achieve a Texas-sized appropriation hopefully during conference committee, when members of the Senate and House get together and settle the differences on the bill. Right now, House Bill 13 includes the appropriation itself while in the Senate, the members believe these expenditures should be in the supplemental budget (SB 500). We still think SB 7 has many certain advantages in that it is versatile in use – Harvey recovery dollars, future mitigation project funding, and Army Corps matching funds – and it includes several oversight and transparency safeguards.”
Check back soon and often. This is a $3.2 billion issue!
Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/26/2019
574 Days since Hurricane Harvey