Environmental Committee Annual Report 2012-2013

The LWVCC Environmental Committee continues to promote an environment beneficial to life through protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest, and to promote policies that manage land as a finite resource and that incorporates principles of stewardship.  (LWVUS Natural Resources Positions)

The main focus this year has been on monitoring the gas, oil and coal mining industry activities and taking necessary action to avoid impacts on the environment, health, welfare, and safety of the public.  Monitoring includes – legislative actions, court decisions, false statements, collusion, corporate power, unfair and unjust settlements, public and organizational meetings, workshops, and conferences.

Further research, study is done in order to update material facts and beliefs and to understand the complexities of mining for fossil fuels and to explore the aspects of alternative energy.

We collaborate with scientists, physicians, ecologists, engineers, attorneys, legislators, municipal officials, conservation and economic development organizations.

We also focus on other conservation issues:

  • The effects of Climate Change on the natural resources.
  • Clean Water and Clean Air Legislation.
  • Municipality Rights to govern: planning and zoning to protect the natural resources to ensure public health, welfare and safety.

Environmental News from Around the Nation

Pipeline fight in (Texas) Legislature is  ‘battle  of  the  titans ’
Posted: 10:52 p.m. Thursday . May 9, 2013
By Tim Eaton – American-Statesman Staff  ( Excerpts)

Deep in the undercurrents of  the  83rd  legislature session, a storm is  brewing that  strikes fear in the hearts of many lawmakers.  It may ultimately, force them to choose between disappointing private property rights advocates, or going against  some of  the powerful oil and gas interests that give generously to their political campaigns.  It is a choice few want to make.  Though the conflict has played out largely behind  the scenes, two of the  nation’s richest  family dynasties – the powerful Bass family from Fort Worth and the Koch brothers of

Kansas and New York – are pitted  against one another, with trial lawyers, environmentalists, farmers  and ranchers thrown into  the fray.  “Its  sort of a battle of the titans, said state Rep. Dennis  Bonnen, R-Angleton.  At issue are the legal powers  given to energy companies to condemn  and take private land for pipelines.

For years, pipeline companies  have  found it relatively easy to use the eminent domain process to acquire private property.  Land owners have little choice but to give up their land, though they can haggle over price.

But  to wield the power of eminent domain, pipelines must  be considered “common carriers,”  meaning they allow other companies  access to their pipes.  Companies building  pipelines for their own use face a more difficult – and often expensive – task in negotiating the necessary rights. To be a common carrier, companies have needed to do little more than check a box on a form at the Texas Railroad Commission , the state’s oil and gas regulator, attesting that  they are – or intend to be – a common carrier.  But a 2011 Texas Supreme  Court decision cast  a  cloud of uncertainty over the process. The ruling created a prospect for Texas  landowners facing condemnation to file lawsuits in counties across the state challenging common carrier status . The result for engery companies could be years of expensive lawsuits in dozens of the state’s 254 courthouses. The Basses essentially are involved because they believe passionately in property owner’s rights. The Koch family – Koch Enterprises, a multi-national conglomerate with petroleum interests support new laws letting the Railroad Commission and Travis County courts handle all challenges to common carrier status.

‘Monsanto  Protection  Act’ :  Chemical  monopoly  writes  its  own  law
By Betsey Piette  (Excerpts)

On March 24, the pro-Monsanto “Farmer Assurance Provision, Section 735” rider was quietly slipped into the Agricultural Appropriations provisions of HR 933, the Continuing Resolution spending bill designed to avert a federal government shutdown.  Section 735 should have been labeled the “Monsanto Protection Act.” Now law for the next six months after President Barack Obama signed HR 933 on March

29, it allows agribusiness giant Monsanto to promote and plant genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds, free from any judicial litigation that might decide the crops are unsafe. Even if a court review determines that a GMO crop harms humans, Section 735 allows the seeds to be planted once the USDA approves them. Public health lawyer Michele Simon says the Senate bill requires the USDA to “ignore any court ruling that would otherwise halt the planting of new genetically-engineered crops.”

Alma Forsyth
Environmental Committee Chair

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