In Legislature's Final Days, Lawmakers Extend Court Protections for Polluters

DennisBonnen.jpeg
Rep. Dennis Bonnen
Update at 3:37 p.m. Friday: Looks as though the bill's author in the Senate plans to strip Bonnen's amendment out of the bill before it goes to the governor's desk.

Amid these "late nights and high feelings" of the tail end of the 82nd Texas Legislature, House lawmakers took a little time to pay the bills yesterday, tying up one last niggling loophole that was letting property owners sue polluters that were contaminating their land.

As it crawled through the Legislature, a bill by state Sen. Troy Fraser would let businesses defend themselves in public nuisance suits over their greenhouse gas emissions, if they can show they were complying with a state or federal permit. Plenty of environmentalists were already against the bill, and fought to soften it up before the Senate approved it.

But on Tuesday, an amendment by Angleton Rep. Dennis Bonnen expanded the bill to cover any sort of pollution at all. Companies responsible for mercury, fracking fluid, or other hazardous waste would get a blanket cover from nuisance or trespass suits, so long as they have a permit and they didn't lie somehow to get it.

Bonnen, a former Environmental Committee chair, is notoriously pro-industry and tough on environmentalists.

After Bonnen's amendment was approved, the reality of what the bill meant began to sink in. Yesterday Rep. Craig Eiland led a charge to get it stripped back out. Eiland called the bill "a huge change in policy," according to the Austin American-Statesman. "I'm very disappointed with our business and industry that supported the Bonnen amendment." He got a healthy majority of the House to support pulling the amendment down, but because of a procedural rule, that wasn't enough.

Because the bill was being read for the third and last time, it would've taken two-thirds of the House to pass another amendment, and the effort to pull Bonnen's amendment went down 82-63.

Nuisance and trespass have been among the claims listed in suits against gas drillers in the Barnett Shale, like Bob and Lisa Parr's suit against Aruba Petroleum, Halliburton and others back in March.

Downwinders At Risk's Jim Schermbeck says the bill, as it stands now, would tighten up Texas's widespread tort reform effort from 2003, cutting off one of the last remaining avenues to challenge polluters in court. "For a group of people who seem to be so concerned with their rights as citizens," he tells Unfair Park, "people like Dennis Bonnen spend so much of their time taking away those rights."

Next, the bill is headed to a conference committee, where House and Senate members work out differences between their versions of the bill -- Bonnen's amendment among them.
My Voice Nation Help
9 comments
Timothy R. Ruggiero
Timothy R. Ruggiero

I'm very tired of having to combat the naysayers who say that natural gas well development is perfectly safe, even when planted next to our homes, schools and churches. One thing you'll notice is that there's not one person who is perfectly okay with being poisoned that's actually subjected to being poisoned. Exxon's Tillerson says there's no documented cases of ground water contamination due to fracking, but if there is, it was done by bad drilling back in the 40's and 50's. I might point out that Exxon was drilling and contaminating (and still is) Eleizabth Burns' ranch in south Texas back in the 40's and 50's. The gas company execs all live off the shale and spend millions every year 'selling' us all the so-called 'benefits'. Natural gas may burn cleaner than coal, but the extraction process makes it just as bad, if not worse. Hundreds upon hundreds of people logging complaints about nausea, headache, vomiting, nosebleeds, and constant odors, and unethical and corrupt politicians like Bonnen are nothing more than Industry Whores. (and don't get me started on property devaulation)

Citizen Kim
Citizen Kim

Who would have thought that someone who looks so "challenged" could be so devious!

Jim Bob Guthrie
Jim Bob Guthrie

Meh. The environment is overrated anyway.  Lead paint, lung cancer and birth defects for everybody!  Thanks, Texas Legislature. 

zobzerto
zobzerto

Rep. Bonnen looks like an alien host. Or a serial rapist. That picture is creepy.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

Rick Perry's mob continues it's assault on Texas via the gas industry. If more local media would cover this legislation and others like it, there might be some stronger opposition.DO continues to keep us up to date on what's going on and is greatly appreciated. Thanks Patrick.

Just like last week when Houston's KHOU did a great expose on how Rick Perry and the TCEQ knew, but hid the results of radioactivity in our drinking water. Somewhat surprised that DMN did not cover it.Take a look:www.khou.com/home/-Texas-...

Two words: Mob boss

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

  Darrd2010

When these folks are choking on the FUMES of the chemicals from the drilling can't drink the flaming water from their taps and the neighborhoods farms and Ranches become as contaminated and unlivable as LOVE Canal   was in the 70s They will find a way to tack the Mess on the enviromentalist .

Sczctf
Sczctf

THANKS FOR NOTHING.

engmofo
engmofo

Why not just tie us down & waterboard us with fracking chemicals while your at it …

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...