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Using Komesar’s Participation-Centered Model to learn more about Administrative Process

In his path-breaking book, Imperfect Alternatives (1997), Neil Komesar develops a simple model for comparing the ability of institutions to address various social problems – for example the relative ability of markets versus legislatures versus courts to resolve a particular issue.  Beyond informing questions about institutional choice, Komesar’s model can also be used to troubleshoot processes within… Full Story

Water Infrastructure Bill Could Upend Texas’ Water Planning Process

The water infrastructure bills that the legislature passed last session – and that have to be approved by voters under Proposition 6 in the November 5 special election to take full effect – have received a lot of press coverage, with most attention being given to the jaw-dropping sums of money involved. As with all estimates – particularly complex ones that peer far into… Full Story

Competitive Chemical Regulation: A Greener Alternative

In 2005, the City of Austin discovered that coal-tar based asphalt sealant was killing the highly endangered Barton Springs salamander. The sealant was leaching off freshly sealed parking lots and entering downstream pools where these fragile animals live. The surprise ending to the City’s detective work was not only that the sealant was gradually destroying its river… Full Story

Water Supply and System Loss in Texas

KVUE reported last week that the City of Austin lost 3 billion gallons of water to leaky or broken pipes in 2012 and another 4 billion in 2011 – at the very time Texas was contending with its worst single-year drought on record. The station quoted a city spokesperson as saying that Austin has hundreds of miles… Full Story

President Obama’s Executive Order on Chemical Facility Safety Is a Step in the Right Direction

Recently, President Obama signed an executive order, entitled “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security,” that is designed to get state, federal and local chemical safety agencies and first responders to improve coordination, information gathering, and regulation with respect to the risks posed by the many highly reactive chemical compounds that are stored and used throughout the… Full Story

Using the Market to Conserve Endangered Species: Promising Approach or a Pipe Dream?

The federal Endangered Species Act has been referred to by legal scholars as the “pit bull” of environmental statutes, because of its “sharp teeth and strong grip.” The ESA’s structure is simple compared to other environmental laws:  animals and plants that are at risk of becoming extinct may become “listed” as “threatened” or “endangered” and,… Full Story

BLM Fracking Rules and Water Supply

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) currently regulates hydraulic fracturing (fracturing) through a rule that was adopted three decades ago and last revised in 1988.  43 C.F.R. § 3160.  Because of its age, the existing rule does not account for the risks or opportunities that have resulted from innovations in horizontal drilling and fracturing technology…. Full Story

Planning Organizations Could Manage Regional PACE Programs

Texas Governor Rick Perry recently signed new PACE enabling legislation into law.  S.B. 385 overhauls existing statutes that authorized PACE in Texas but never gave rise to any actual PACE programs. Municipalities and counties can now enter into PACE contractual assessments for water and energy efficiency improvements with owners of real property.  (For more background on PACE… Full Story

TCEQ Could Provide Water by Declining to Enforce Senior Rights

A state district court judge recently invalidated a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) rule allowing the agency, during droughts or other emergency water shortages, to enforce senior water rights by suspending junior water rights.  The rub was that the agency could, in the process, exempt preferred junior water rights holders such as municipalities and electric… Full Story

A War on Coal, or a War on Climate Change?

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday its plan to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing power plants.  This is the latest salvo in what some Texans (and others) call the “war on coal.”  It is more likely a reluctant act born of political gridlock — a second-best option for a… Full Story