Aquifer storage bill could flow through state capitol

Confidence of Buda officials is high six weeks into a new legislative session as the city’s efforts to have an Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) bill pass the Texas House and Senate moves forward.

With key senators throughout the state eyeing ASR, the chips are falling into place for Buda to achieve its long-awaited goal.

Two identical bills filed by Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) and Senator Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) early in the session aim to ease restrictions on the technology, allowing Buda to invest in ASR while reducing its reliance on groundwater.

ASR calls for the pumping of surface or groundwater during heavy supply and storing it in another aquifer for use in times of drought or major drawdown.

On Feb. 19, Texas Solutions Group (TSG), Buda’s lobbying consultants, briefed city leaders on the progress of the bill at the capitol.

“ASR is your number one priority this session and we are taking that to heart,” said Scott Miller with TSG. “When you have a bill in both the House and the Senate, your odds increase dramatically to try and pass that bill.”

Miller commended Buda city staff on its efforts to meet with Campbell to get her bill filed in conjunction with Zwiener bill.

A state representative from San Antonio might be a key figure in moving the bills through the legislature.

Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) is a proponent of ASR technology. San Antonio and Kerrville are two of the first cities that successfully implemented ASR technology to improve overall conservation efforts.

Larson is currently the chair of the Natural Resource Committee, which could help the bills move through the House and Senate.

“We’re excited that Chairman Larson from San Antonio is chairing the House Natural Resource Committee, and he passed this bill out last session,” Miller said.  “We’re hoping to get a unanimous vote in his committee to get this bill out and try to send it to the House Local & Consent Calendars.”

TSG representatives have been in close contact with Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), who chairs the Senate Committee on agriculture, water and rural affairs, about the ASR bills.

The two Buda ASR bills, HB 1044 and SB 483, will travel through the committees, which could be a key component in their success.

Jeff Heckler, a representative with TSG, told the Buda City Council to not be discouraged with the movement of the bill. He said the Texas Legislature is set up in a way that fosters bills to fail, not pass.

However, Heckler said the ASR bills in “good shape.”

As of Feb. 13, around 1,000 bills have been filed in the Senate and 2,194 in the House. The consultants expect around 6,500 bills to be filed by May, which is on par with previous sessions.

During the 85th legislative session in 2017, a similar ASR bill was filed but without a Senate sponsor. It died as time ran out towards the end of the session.

“Whichever bill gets sent out first, whether it’s the Senate or House bill, as I said, our chances improve dramatically to try and finish this thing by May 27 when gavel comes down and the Senate adjourns,” Miller said. “Once we get this bill passed, we’ve got 30 days for the governor to sign this bill.”

If the bill receives two-thirds vote by the House and Senate following up to three separate readings from each chamber, it then goes to the governor’s desk for final approval. The governor has up to 10 days to veto or sign the bill. If no action is taken, the bill then becomes law.

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