TEXAS LEGISLATURE SHOULD INVEST IN WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
BY MABRIE JACKSON, JAMES C. OBERWETTER, BILL THORNTON AND JODIE L. JILES
SPECIAL TO THE FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM
April 25, 2013
More than 98 percent of Texas counties and communities are experiencing ongoing drought — nothing new or surprising in a state that struggles with the devastating impacts of drought at least once every 10 years.
The Legislature has a real shot at protecting us by making a one-time investment in our State Water Plan. But less than six weeks remain in the session, and consensus has not emerged.
Without consensus, the future of our state’s water supply — arguably the most important issue facing our lawmakers — is in jeopardy.
As Texans have become more educated about drought and its debilitating effects on public health and our economy, the number of stakeholders supporting water infrastructure investment has grown to include water providers, municipalities, agricultural interests, conservationists and representatives of every major economic driver in the state.
Despite this alignment of broad-based support, an investment in water infrastructure could still slip from our hands if legislators cannot agree on how that investment should be structured.
Many statewide elected officials and legislators are working hard to ensure that Texas has the water infrastructure necessary for future growth and development.
House Bill 4, by Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, and Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Belton, who chair the House and Senate natural resources committees, would create a historic water infrastructure bank to operate as a revolving loan program to finance water projects identified in the State Water Plan.
The chairmen also are trying to pass companion legislation that would fund HB4 with an injection of capital from the rainy-day fund. Alternate funding options include a constitutional amendment proposed by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Ritter’s funding proposal was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Monday, and Williams’ proposal was approved by the Senate on Tuesday.
With only weeks to go in the session, we encourage lawmakers to pass HB4, fund the loan program it prescribes and ensure that the funding mechanism is aligned with the financing tools laid out in HB4.
Texas Water Development Board projections warn that by 2060, 50 percent of Texans will lack enough water during severe drought. The crucial water infrastructure projects identified in the State Water Plan — water treatment plants, reservoirs, pipes for water conveyance and conservation strategies — can be implemented if the Legislature accomplishes these goals.
By making the one-time State Water Plan investment contemplated in HB4, our Legislature could provide water for generations of Texans.
Failure to deliver an investment in water infrastructure this session could lead to public health challenges, decreasing real estate values and billions of dollars in lost economic development opportunity.
When it comes to water, Texas cannot afford to wait any longer.
Mabrie Jackson is president and CEO of the North Texas Commission. James Oberwetter is president and CEO of the Dallas Regional Chamber. Bill Thornton is president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. Jodie Jiles is chairman of the Texas Business Leadership Council.
TEXAS COAL: A VITAL COMPONENT OF THE TEXAS ECONOMY
The total economic impact of the Texas coal industry is over $6 billion, supporting 23,130 jobs with a labor income of almost $1.7 billion, and contributing over $640 million in state and local taxes.
April 16, 2013
Meeting roughly 34% of Texas electricity demands, coal-fired electricity is a key component of Texas’ diverse energy mix and is instrumental in ensuring affordable and stable electricity prices for Texans and Texas businesses. This affordable electricity is the foundation that the Texas economy is built upon. But beyond this foundational effect, the direct economic and fiscal impact of coal-fired electricity generation and Texas coal mining is itself significant.
A recent study prepared by the Center for Economic Development and Research at the University of North Texas found that the total annual economic impact of lignite coal mining, coal-fired electricity generation, and the manufacturing of activated carbon is over $6 billion. This supports 23,130 jobs with a total labor income of almost $1.7 billion. It also provides a significant boost to the state and local tax base, with a total annual contribution of over $640 million.
Of this total economic and fiscal impact, a great deal comes from 41 coal-fired electric generating units at 20 power plants located throughout the state. These power plants provide over $4.2 billion of economic activity, over $1 billion in labor income for 13,659 jobs, and roughly $500 million in state and local taxes.
Many of these power plants rely on lignite coal mined within the state. Lignite mining results in almost $2 billion in annual economic activity, including $622 million in labor income which supports 9,450 jobs. These mining activities also contribute roughly $150 million in state and local taxes.
 Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Quick Facts (March 2013).
 Terry L. Clower, Ph.D. & Manuel Reyes, D.E.D, Coal Mining and Coal-Fired Power Generation in Texas: Economic and Fiscal Impacts, February 2013.
Balanced Energy for Texas is a statewide coalition of energy consumers, producers and providers, committed to supporting policies that preserve and promote our state’s leading role in energy and economic development.
We believe that energy is the backbone of Texas’ economy and that economic prosperity is contingent upon the adoption of sensible policies that maximize the use of our state’s abundant, diverse and affordable energy portfolio, specifically oil, natural gas and coal. This balanced portfolio, based on free market principles and a sound regulatory framework, is critical to Texas’ continued profitability, competitiveness and economic success.
As America’s largest industrial state, Texas’ economic prosperity is dependent upon access to affordable, reliable energy. Thanks to an abundance of domestic and reliable energy sources, Texas continues to attract new businesses and industries, spurring economic development, creating good jobs and leading the way in the global marketplace.
The key to affordable, reliable energy is a balanced, diverse electricity generation portfolio that relies upon all available natural resources. This balanced portfolio, based on free market principles and a sound regulatory framework, is critical to Texas’ continued economic success. Texas must find ways to expand generating capacity, continue the trend toward improved efficiency and diversify our energy portfolio to meet the state’s growing electricity demand.
Texas is the largest energy producing and consuming state in America. As such, energy is a central factor powering our state’s prosperity. The continuing growth of the Texas economy depends on the ability for residents and businesses to access affordable and reliable electricity.