The 84th legislative session ended on June 1, 2015. See the bills that have become law.

Chipping away at environmental regulations

Curated by Neena Satija

While several Republican officials in Texas have criticized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan,” aimed at curtailing greenhouse gases, Texas legislators have also targeted more local environmental regulations.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation aiming to quicken regulators’ pace of cranking out permits for major industrial projects by limiting public scrutiny. Proponents say the new law addresses the state’s current slow-moving bureaucracy that was driving would-be employers to other states. Critics say the law stifles the voice of everyday Texans raising concerns about proposed industrial projects. And the EPA has raised concerns about the measure.

Abbott also signed legislation that would pre-empt local efforts to regulate a wide variety of drilling-related activities. He said Texas needs to avoid a “patchwork of local regulations” that threaten oil and gas production. But environmentalists and some local officials say the legislation is a blow to the authority cities have long tapped to ensure local health and safety.

Legislators approved a bill that sets a five-year statute of limitations and cap payouts at about $2 million when counties sue companies that have fouled their water or air. Opponents say that state regulators already fall short and that limiting local suits would encourage more pollution that jeopardizes public health. But backers of the legislation say that curbing civil penalties assessed on top of those doled out by state regulators would bolster economic certainty for companies and allow them to focus resources on cleaning up their messes.

Updated: May 29, 2015

See all the topics we’re following.

Questions, suggestions or concerns? Let us know.

The Texas Legislative Guide was designed and developed by Becca Aaronson, Emily Albracht, Daniel Craigmile, Annie Daniel, Ben Hasson and Ryan Murphy for The Texas Tribune. The Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that promotes civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government and other matters of statewide concern.