A Good Legislative Session for Texas’ Groundwater

News from the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance:

Water Bill 2017While we succeeded in stopping most of the bad groundwater bills this session, one of them did pass. As we reported in our legislative wrap-up , HB 2378 provided that permits to transport groundwater out of the district will be automatically renewed, just as operating permits already are.

While groundwater conservation districts (GCDs) would retain the ability to review the permits, this automatic renewal of transport permits would have further greased the wheels for big water marketing projects to be established and continued even if the impacts to the aquifer proved to be greater than anticipated.

But in a positive turn of events for groundwater, Governor Abbott vetoed HB 2378. The Governor issued the following statement:

Promoting common-sense policies for diversified food systems
A Good Session for Texas’ Groundwater

House Bill 2378 would have essentially mandated that export permits issued by groundwater conservation districts be extended indefinitely. An indefinite permit hinders the public from participating in the decision-making of the groundwater conservation district. It does not, however, prevent the groundwater conservation district from changing the terms of the permit unilaterally, a power House Bill 2378 continues to allow these districts to exercise. Excluding the public, potentially in perpetuity, from the decisions of a groundwater conservation district will reduce transparency and inhibit the district’s ability to respond to changed circumstances over time. The next Legislature should consider legislation that accomplishes the goals of House Bill 2378 without its defects.

https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-vetoes-hb-2378

We strongly agree with the Governor’s objection to the exclusion of the public from the process and the concern with hamstringing GCDs in responding to changed conditions.

The story may be more complicated, however —    as were most things this session.  There is speculation that the veto had less to do with the bill’s topic, and more to do with a political battle between the bill sponsor (Rep. Lyle Larson) and the Governor: www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/editorials/article/Vetoes-of-Larson-s-bills-don-t-pass-the-sniff-11243248.php.

Whatever the reason, this is good news for groundwater in Texas. While the local GCDs are far from perfect, they provide a vital opportunity for people to be involved and have an impact locally to protect the future of water in our communities. If you haven’t done so already, find out if there is a local GCD in your area, go to their next meeting, and get involved! 

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