Texas Environment 2012: A Year In Review
by: Rod Rice, December 31, 2012 4:12:00 am
Large parts of the rest of the country also suffered from severe drought and 2012 is expected to be the hottest year on record.
Luke Metzger is director of Environment Texas. He says the drought may actually have finally gotten lawmakers to focus on the state's water issues. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst recently floated the idea of using a billion dollars from the rainy day fund to invest in water and infrastructure.
"We see that as potentially a positive step forward. Many legislatures have discussed this issue over and over again, but they've nothing about it. The silver lining of this punishing drought might be that the legislature finally acts to address our water problems."
Metzger hopes the money will first go toward water conservation ...
"... which we know is the cheapest, fastest, most environmentally responsible way to meet our water needs. We really want the state to emphasize those low cost environmentally friendly water solutions."
2012 was not a good year for state parks. The system's problems began two years ago when legislators took an axe to the state parks budget.
"And then on top of that because of the drought and the heat our lakes levels were very low, it was very hot, so people weren't visiting our parks and so that was an additional loss of revenue for our state parks and so they're really just at the brink. They've already had to reduce hours and days at many parks, laid off more than a hundred park rangers. And now they’ve said if the legislature doesn't address the funding problems, they're going to have to close down 20 state parks."
Along the same line, Metzger says 2012 saw a big environmental win in Houston with the passage of Proposition B.
"You know, investing $166 million dollars to build the largest network of hike and bike trails in the country. Houston voters approved funding to double the trail system in Houston to about 150 miles as well as making improvement to city swimming pools and ball fields."
He says this past year helped to show that wind energy is a reliable and proven source of power.
"We actually hit a new record in November where 8,521 megawatts of electricity were produced by wind power. That represented about 25% of our state's total electric demand on that day."
Metzger says Texas and the rest of the country will also benefit in a big way due to a decision this year in Washington. President Barack Obama finalized new fuel efficiency standards to double fuel economy for cars and trucks by 2025.
"Our estimate is that those standards will be the equivalent of reducing pollution of about 4 million cars, and will take about 28 million metric tons of dioxide out of our atmosphere. So it's very significant both from a climate prospective, but those cleaner cars will also have an impact saving drivers money at the gas pump and reducing local pollution in Houston and other cities."
As for 2013, the approaching legislative session will no doubt make decisions that will impact the environment, whether in positive or negative depends on your point of view and remains to be seen.