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Texas Legislature Opens Session Focused on Recovery

The 87th session of the Texas Legislature begins this week and runs through the last week of May. 

STATE OF AFFAIRS POST-2020
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar recently announced lawmakers will have $112.5 billion available, down slightly from the current budget but higher than estimates made this summer. Hegar said there’s a nearly $1 billion deficit for the current budget that lawmakers must address, but that figure doesn’t account for 5% cuts to state agencies’ budgets that Gov. Greg Abbott, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick ordered this summer. 

More than 29,000 Texans have died from COVID-19 since March, one out of five hospital beds in Texas are occupied by COVID-19 patients, and more than 4 million Texans have applied for jobless relief during the pandemic. As PESA has reported, employment in the OFS sector fell sharply in Texas with more than 82,000 jobs lost since March. 

The three main priorities for this session will be the budget, redistricting and the pandemic. 

ENERGY PRIORITIES
There are two bills being introduced directly related to flaring. HB 896 would direct the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to develop state standards to limit flaring and venting, while HB 897 would direct TCEQ and the Texas Railroad Commission to study existing and potential regulations to lower emissions. 

Under current Texas law, a specific exemption from state regulators is needed to flare. It is doubtful either of these proposals will pass. 

Earlier this year, the state’s oil and gas industry created the Texas Methane & Flaring Coalition to address the issue, with a stated purpose of assessing and promoting industry-led solutions. TXOGA supports the Coalition but does not endorse the proposed bills. 

Another pair of bills introduced by Rep. Mary Ann Perez, D-Pasadena, and Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas, would task the state’s environmental agency with creating tougher rules on the structural integrity of above-ground tanks at chemical plants, refineries, electric power plants or other large storage facilities.” These proposals are in response to increasingly strong storms in the Texas Gulf Cost where many refineries are located. 

PUBLIC ACCESS
As part of the protocol for the legislative session, the public will have access during the opening day but will be required to take a COVID-19 test prior to entry. The Texas Division of Emergency Management is providing rapid testing for this purpose. There are no rules yet for access during the legislative session.

For more information on state government affairs, contact PESA Vice President Government Affairs Tim Tarpley.

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