Texas Senate Committee takes on difficult, costly issue of windborne and waterborne litter

Published 10:45 am Thursday, January 7, 2016

Special to The Leader

The Texas Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs met on December 8, for an initial interim hearing on a number of issues. One of the crucial issues facing Texas including Texas Agriculture is wind borne and water borne litter that trashes our property and public right of ways and fouls our waterways and beaches. Witnesses from the City of Fort Worth, City of Fort Stockton and San Marcos River Foundation came before the committee to provide written and oral background information on the issue.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick charged the committee with studying this issue since it has become a widespread problem affecting all Texans. Litter is a blight that lowers land values; deters e a widespread problem affecting all Texans. Litter is a blight that lowers land values; deters economic development, outdoor recreation, and tourism; and diminishes overall quality of life.

Witnesses talked about the fact that plastic bags and containers have caused tremendous problems to critical wastewater infrastructure systems in rural communities. Rural communities are especially impacted with open landscapes and limited budgets. The City of Fort Stockton became one of the first cities in Texas to ban plastic bags along with other litter control ordinances because of the negative impacts to their residents and economy.

“If you leave [litter] alone and don’t take care of it, the rats will take over Texas,” testified Warren Oakley, City of Fort Stockton Building Official.

This is a statewide problem with far-reaching economic effects that needs to be addressed. The agriculture industry, hunting enthusiasts, industrial plants and our taxpayer-funded city utilities all must increase costs to deal with this problem of litter in our fields and streams. This is a problem that affects all Texans and quietly increases cost to Texas taxpayers and consumers through taxpayer-funded cleanup and maintenance efforts,” said Mike Booth, a respected Austin-based Water Attorney and expert.

Sid Miller, Texas Agriculture Commissioner said, “I am pleased and gratified that Lt Governor Dan Patrick has included the important charge of litter to those issues the Committee on Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs will be studying this interim. I look forward to working closely with Chairman Charles Perry and the committee members to find ways to preserve our important Texas natural resources, to help Texas agricultural producers and ensure a way we can hand our children and grandchildren the same beautiful Texas that was handed to us.”

The Senate will likely hold other hearings on this subject as they study this issue throughout the interim, but future hearings have not been scheduled as of yet.