August 31, 2017 Legislature Update: The Texas Legislature closed its special session on August 15th. Neither SB 14 nor HB 70 passed. These bills would have limited the authority of municipalities to regulate the removal of trees and vegetation. Texas Interfaith Power & Light opposed both bills.
TXIPL also was watching HB 7. This bill required municipalities to allow tree planting credit in lieu of mitigation fees for tree removal. The Senate amended HB 7 in ways that limited the authority of municipalities to regulate tree removal and restricted the value of mitigation fees. However, these amendments were not accepted by the House. In the end, the Senate removed the amendments before passing the final bill. Governor Abbott signed the final version of HB 7 on August 16th. The law will become effective on December 1, 2017.
Thank you to Texas Impact and all of Texas Impact's members who worked to influence this legislation. You spoke loudly for the importance of trees and vegetation in our communities. They mitigate heat islands, air pollution, and the impacts of climate change. By doing so, they are important to our public health.
August 4, 2017 Legislature Update: HB 70 is still pending in committee. Continue to contact the committee members, if you want to influence the bill's outcome.
July 25, 2017 Legislature Update: HB 70 is being heard by the Urban Affairs Committee today. SB 14 was heard and amended by the Business and Commerce Committee this past Saturday. Texas Impact's Weekly Witness on July 24th discussed the status of these bills and actions you can take to influence them. Texas Impact also is partnering with Defend Texas Trees to oppose the bills.
Many people enjoy the beauty that trees and vegetation bring to our communities, but their value to us extends far beyond aesthetics. Trees and vegetation are our allies in battling heat islands and air pollution.
Sunlight falling on dry pavement and buildings heats these surfaces to temperatures hotter than the air temperature. The surfaces then release the heat into the air overnight and limit night-time cooling. After several days, the cumulative effect of this cycle is a heat island, where we live, work, and go to school. A heat island can be several degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the surrounding rural area.
The negative effects of heat islands include increased energy usage for cooling and increased production of air pollutants and ground-level ozone. Most significantly, heat islands cause an increase in heat-related illnesses and deaths. These negative effects impact vulnerable populations the most: the homeless; children and the elderly; those with health conditions; and those who do not have the resources to pay the increased cost of cooling their home. Climate change may intensify urban heat islands and increase their negative impacts.
Trees and vegetation combat heat islands by intercepting sunlight and limiting the heating of pavement and buildings. Moisture released from plants through evapotranspiration helps to cool the air. Plants also absorb carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the air. The Dallas Urban Heat Island report identifies the use of trees and vegetation as an effective mitigation strategy for the city's heat island. Austin’s guide to heat island mitigation relies on research that shows trees and vegetation are effective in combating heat island effects. A 2016 Urban Heat Management Study for Louisville, Kentucky specifically looked at vulnerable populations, resulting in one of its key conclusions being to prioritize tree planting and other vegetative strategies in residential zones.
Since trees and vegetation are important to the well-being of communities, many cities have adopted ordinances, regulations, permits, and requirements specific to trees and vegetation in their region of Texas. Bills related to these types of local ordinances, rules, and regulations have been introduced in the special session of the 85th Texas Legislature. Texas Impact is following these bills and recently talked about them at their July 17th Weekly Witness Special Session Preview. Contact Katrina for more information.