There is a battle in the Texas state legislature over a proposal to create a statewide flood plan, with a hefty price tag to be put on Texas citizens.
This particular battle comes at a time that the state is also waiting on federal relief money to aid in recovering from Hurricane Harvey. The current proposal will allow for the state to make moves to fight and even prevent some flood damage (to an extent) by laying the groundwork for obtaining flood contracts, responding more efficiently to flood conditions, and preparing residents for future floods.
However, at the same time, the Texas Department of Environmental Quality (TDEQ) appears to be fine with a new toxic dump being established just outside of Laredo, Texas.
One of the major sources of contention with this project is that the landfill would take Class 1 industrial solid waste, which is classified as something toxic, corrosive or flammable, a generator of sudden pressure by decomposition or heat, or anything that poses a substantial danger to human health or the environment when improperly processed.
And furthermore, parts of the property are within Webb County’s 100-year floodplain. With the 1,000-year flood event that was Hurricane Harvey only months ago, this issue has become ever timely.
About a third of the Pescadito property is located in the 100-year floodplain, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s map, but the actual landfill disposal area and the waste storage and processing units are outside the floodplain, Brian McGovern, TCEQ media relations specialist, told LMT.
That is more than a little problematic, considering that toxic dumps in the Houston area flooded during Harvey, creating a potential environmental disaster. The Associated Press covered the issue of flooding toxic dump sites just after Harvey struck, detailing how more than a dozen of the 41 toxic sites had flooded and were possibly damaged by the storm.
While it’s not a bad idea for Texas to fix the issue of flood planning, it is somewhat odd that one of the biggest hazards to Texas citizens in the event of another major flood is not only not being addressed, but actually expanded.
The problem is that allowing more of these sites to be built in these flood plains will just end up costing the state more than they already want to spend on the plan, which itself is a pretty hefty bill.
The Texas Senate wants to put $1.8 billion toward those efforts, and the Texas House wants to invest more than $4 billion — although it wants to ask voters for permission to spend most of that. Lawmakers will have to settle those differences before the session ends in late May. Whatever they settle on, the sum is sure to be a small sliver of the tens of billions of Harvey-related dollars Texas will receive from the federal government when it’s all said and done. But state lawmakers argue it’s still a major step.
While both the Texas House and Senate leaders support the creation of a statewide flood plan and a revolving fund to help communities pay for projects, they disagree on how much to spend and how to approve the money. A measure under consideration in the Texas House would ask voters for permission to withdraw $3.26 billion from the state’s rainy day fund, and the Senate has proposed pulling $840 million from the savings account without voter input.
That’s a big price tag when your government is also apparently set to allow a massive risk to the environment and its citizens go forward, potentially creating even more hazards for the people and more unnecessary costs on the state.
It’s not a good idea, and hopefully the Texas state government will do something about it quickly.