Special to the Mirror

AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry signed major water and clean air legislation authored by state Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor, during a special ceremony Monday attended also by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; state Rep. Robert Puente, the water bill’s sponsor in the House and chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources; Ellis County Judge Chad Adams, chairman of the Texas Clean Air Working Group and president of the North Central Texas Council of Governments; and other officials.

In conjunction with $750 million in water infrastructure funding that Averitt helped secure through his position on the Senate Finance Committee, Senate Bill 3 advances the development of Texas water policy by protecting instream flows, encouraging conservation of existing water resources and allowing new water projects identified by the state’s Water Plan to meet future water needs.

“When you look at the state’s current water supply versus what it will take to meet our state’s future water needs, it’s easy to conclude that our future supply would have been insufficient without the advances we made this session,” said Averitt, chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources. “Passage of this legislation along with the water infrastructure funding we secured will allow us to enact decades worth of water planning work and ensure a clean, adequate supply of water for future generations of Texans.

“I am proud to be part of the Legislature that set these important tools in motion,” Averitt said.

Previous Texas Water Development Board predictions suggested that failure to implement the state water plan could leave 85 percent of Texans without an adequate supply of water as early as 2060.

Clean air legislation

Averitt’s clean air legislation is considered key to the state’s efforts to bring its non-attainment areas back into attainment with federal environmental guidelines.

Senate Bill 12, which was passed during the final hours of the 80th Legislative Session, addresses the state’s NOx problem by targeting mobile emissions from on and off-road sources such as cars and heavy commercial equipment.

Under SB12, the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan and the Low-Income Vehicle Repair Assistance Program will be significantly augmented to help the state meet the rapidly approaching air quality deadlines set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Mobile emissions are arguably the most important piece of the state’s air quality puzzle,” Averitt said. “I’ve been looking at this issue for a long time from a lot of different angles, and Senate Bill 12 will maximize programs that taxpayers have already invested in to produce meaningful, expeditious air quality improvements for Texas.”

Averitt’s 80th Session efforts to address mobile emissions by beefing up the TERP and LIRAP programs were not limited to SB12. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Averitt successfully worked with his legislative colleagues to appropriate fund balances in the TERP and LIRAP accounts. The TERP and LIRAP accounts maintain substantial fund balances totaling nearly $250 million collected from Texans that cannot be spent elsewhere in the state budget.

Under the budget Averitt helped develop, LIRAP funding will increase from $11 million to $100 million. TERP also received a substantial increase.