An Open Letter on Climate to Texas

Dear Texas:

We need state representatives who bring clean energy jobs to Texas — and tackle climate change at the same time.

Three things have become clear:

  1. Texans are worried about climate change and want to see government action.
  2. Communities of color and low-income communities already bear the burden of environmental pollution — and will be hit hardest by a failure to solve the climate crisis.
  3. Climate solutions will revitalize our economy. The two fastest-growing jobs in America are solar installers and wind technicians, and the cheapest electricity in the United States comes from wind farms and solar panels.

Now for the big question: what’s the Texas State Legislature going to do about it?

State legislatures are key to solving climate change — they can spark clean energy innovation, ensure environmental justice, and hold illegal polluters accountable in our efforts to create clean air.

But right now, our state legislature isn’t stepping up — we have too many representatives with no vision and no plan for how to solve one of the most pressing crises of our time. This November 3rd, we need a climate majority in the Texas State House, one that brings purpose and clarity to solving the problems we face.

Texans agree. Battered by floods, droughts, and hurricanes, Texans know that climate change is a problem — 63% say the challenge is “very serious,” and nearly two-thirds support government action. In Texas, public support for climate action across both parties has grown and intensified recently.

This makes sense: three years ago, Hurricane Harvey caused $125 billion in harm, damaged 135,000 homes and took 88 lives. We remember the cars floating in the streets, the refuse piled up on sidewalks, and the explosions and odors from petrochemical facilities in Crosby and Southeast Houston. Climate change is making hurricanes and storms stronger, and expanding their reach — it’s an existential threat, and our window for solving it is closing.

A father and son salvaging the few undamaged possessions from their home in Port Arthur after Hurricane Harvey.

Climate disasters have also dramatically increased inequality in our nation. In the aftermath of Harvey, our nation’s systemic racism was clearly revealed for those who chose (and had the privilege) to ignore it before. Not only did hurricane-caused chemical explosions mostly occur in communities of color, but disaster recovery funding was wildly disproportionate. A state agency allocated $60,000 per affected resident of Taylor Landing, a predominantly white community. For each affected resident in Port Arthur, a nearby minority-majority community, the state agency allocated $84.

Thanks to a history of redlining and racism, stories of environmental injustice like this have played out over and over again. And the coronavirus crisis is no exception: places with bad air pollution — disproportionately communities of color — are seeing more COVID-19 deaths. Across Texas and the country, the best predictor of a person’s proximity to a polluting facility is the color of their skin. Exposure to air pollution inflames a person’s lungs and increases their chances of getting cancer, asthma, lung disease, and heart problems — which are all top risk factors for coronavirus.

Every vote in the Texas State Legislature taken to clean up the air and protect our kids from asthma has been a vote to reduce the impact of coronavirus — and to save lives. On the other hand, legislators voting to undercut our clean air safeguards — leaving more dangerous pollution in the air and in our lungs — have made Texans more vulnerable to lung inflammation and respiratory illnesses like coronavirus. If it wasn’t clear before the pandemic, it is clear now: protecting our environment means protecting our health.

Our problems are vast — but the solutions are here. We have the technology, the businesses, and the people to solve these crises. Investing in clean energy and in underserved communities will create jobs, clean up our air, and help build our economy back. At this critical time of economic distress, we need state legislators who will bring fast-growing wind and solar jobs to Texas, support clean energy research at our world-class universities, and ensure disaster relief funding inequity no longer compounds injustice — communities of color must expect equity in the state’s response.

The opportunity is huge and the change is coming. Texas should be a leader in the clean energy revolution, but we’re currently being outcompeted: Iowa gets 40% of its electricity from wind. Texas only gets 20%. Texas only gets one percent of our electricity from solar: compare that to wintery Massachusetts, which gets 12%. 180,000 Texans already work in clean energy, imagine the hundreds of thousands of jobs we could create if we prioritized renewable energy investments! The two fastest growing jobs in America are Solar Installer and Wind Technician. We need leaders that can tap into this potential — not impede it.

The case for action is clear and the popular support is there to get it done. When it comes to solving climate change, the people of Texas want us to become a leader.

So which state representatives are holding Texas back? And how can we get a strong majority of the Texas legislature on board?

Luckily, ten of the worst climate voters in Texas are running in flippable districts. These representatives are opposed or indifferent to clean energy jobs — and have challengers who have a plan for solving climate change and bringing jobs to Texas.

We have a choice this November. We can vote for a state legislature that’s failed us on COVID-19, on environmental justice, and on the climate crisis. Or we can invest in a slate of candidates who will help us build back better.

Here’s some information to help you make decisions on which candidates to support:

1) Matt Shaheen (HD 66 — Collin County)

Matt Shaheen has voted against common-sense clean energy and climate solutions. He’s flip-flopped on votes against wind energy — an industry that employs 22,000 people in Texas. During his time in office, he’s also made it much harder for local communities to take on illegal polluters in their backyards.

  • Environment Texas Lifetime Score: 28%
  • Sierra Club 2019 Score: 31%

Climate candidate to support: Sharon Hirsch

HD 66 has over 1,000 clean energy jobs. $5 million dollars have been invested in wind and solar energy in this district alone. We need leadership that can continue to tap into this potential. Sharon Hirsch wants to continue diversifying the renewable energy mix in Texas and reduce harmful pollution across sectors.

2) Jeff Leach (HD 67 — Collin County)

Jeff Leach made Texas Monthly’s list of “Worst Legislators” in 2019. He’s waffled on a lot of positions, but his opposition to clean energy and clean air remains steadfast. Leach has a mixed track record on wind energy, which employs 22,000 people in Texas, and (waffle alert) has voted both for and against bills to study green flooding solutions. Like everyone else on this list, Leach has voted to make it significantly harder for local communities to take on polluters.

  • Environment Texas Lifetime Score: 33%
  • Sierra Club 2019 Score: 30%

Founding member of Texas Freedom Caucus. He then left after almost losing re-election. He’s flipped on a bunch of issues since.

Climate candidate to support: Lorenzo Sanchez

HD 67 has over 1,500 clean energy jobs. $5 million dollars have been invested in wind and solar energy in this district. Lorenzo Sanchez wants to lower energy costs for Texans and ensure that Texas remains an energy state.

3) Tony Tinderholt (HD 94 — Tarrant County)

Tony Tinderholt is a founding member of the Texas Freedom Caucus, described by the Texas Monthly as a “far-right frat house where nuance and compassion go to die.” Tinderholt is one of the most extreme votes on air pollution, science, and clean energy jobs.

Tinderholt was one of the only “no” votes on a bill for new safety requirements after a 2013 fertilizer plant explosion killed 15 people in West, Texas. He also voted against wind energy, which employs 22,000 people in Texas, against concrete mining safeguards, and to prevent the state climatologist from even providing reports on how climate change is affecting Texans.

  • Environment Texas Lifetime Score: 11%
  • Sierra Club 2019 Score: 18%
  • Founding member of Texas Freedom Caucus

Climate candidate to support: Alisa Simmons

HD 94 has over 1,100 clean energy jobs, and has already invested over $4 million dollars in wind and solar energy. Alisa believes in energy efficiency, business development and sustainable choices to improve the health and welfare of Texans.

4) Matt Krause (HD 93 — Tarrant County)

Matt Krause keeps voting against clean energy jobs and solutions.

Krause was one of the only “no” votes on a bill for new safety requirements after a 2013 fertilizer plant explosion killed 15 people in West, Texas. He’s voted against wind energy, which employs 22,000 people in Texas, and against basic bills to study green stormwater management.

Krause voted to strip the Texas government’s ability to regulate carbon pollution. He’s also made it much harder for local communities to take on polluters, and to limit inspections on concrete mining operations that are ruining property values in the Hill Country.

  • Environment Texas Lifetime Score: 21%
  • Sierra Club 2019 Score: 14%

Climate candidate to support: Lydia Bean

HD 93 has over 800 clean energy jobs. $5 million dollars have been invested in wind and solar energy in this district. Lydia has a background in helping organize communities of faith around a variety of justice issues, including climate change.

5) Craig Goldman (HD 97 — Tarrant County)

Craig Goldman has voted against wind energy, which employs 22,000 people in Texas, and against basic bills to study green stormwater management. Goldman voted to strip the Texas government’s ability to regulate carbon pollution. He’s also made it much harder for local communities to take on polluters.

  • Environment Texas Lifetime Score: 33%
  • (Notable: 2017 Environment Texas Score was 0%.)
  • Sierra Club 2019 Score: 19%

Climate candidate to support: Elizabeth Beck

In HD 97, $6 million dollars have been invested in wind and solar energy. Elizabeth Beck has a background in environmental and transportation planning and can continue tapping into the potential of this growing industry.

6) Morgan Meyer (HD 108 — Dallas County)

Morgan Meyer isn’t voting to keep Texans safe from extreme weather. He voted against oil and gas hurricane safety requirements, and to prevent the state climatologist from even providing reports on how climate change is affecting Texans.

Meyer has also voted against wind energy, which employs 22,000 people in Texas, and has. made it much harder for local communities to take on polluters.

  • Environment Texas Lifetime Score: 39%
  • Sierra Club 2019 Score: 29%

Climate candidate to support: Joanna Cattanach

HD 108 has over 2,500 clean energy jobs and $5 million dollars of investments in wind and solar energy. Joanna Cattanach will hold polluters accountable for contaminating Texas’s water, land, and air, and ensure that local communities’ environmental concerns are heard — not overridden.

7) Angie Chen Button (HD 112 — Dallas County)

Angie Chen Button consistently votes to keep science out of government decision-making. She voted against a bill to provide regular reports on how climate change is already affecting Texans, and to strip the Texas governments’ ability to regulate carbon pollution.

She has also voted against wind energy, which employs 22,000 people in Texas, and has made it much harder for local communities to take on polluters.

  • Environment Texas Lifetime Score: 37%
  • Sierra Club 2019 Score: 29%

Climate Candidate to Support: Brandy Chambers

In HD 112, over $4 million dollars have been invested in wind and solar energy. Brandy Chambers wants to make Texas a leader in the renewable energy economy, and she has a plan to do it.

8) Sarah Davis (HD 134 — Harris County)

Sarah Davis’ Houston district is one of the most flooded in the state — yet she keeps voting to keep the best science out of government decisions. She voted against a bill to provide regular reports on how climate change is already affecting Texans, and to strip the Texas governments’ ability to regulate carbon pollution. Both of these votes hurt Texas’ ability to respond to floods and hurricanes.

Davis has also made it much harder for local communities to take on polluters.

  • Environment Texas Lifetime Score: 56%
  • Sierra Club 2019 Score: 13%

Climate candidate to support: Ann Johnson

HD 134 has over 7,000 clean energy jobs. $6 million dollars have been invested in wind and solar energy in this district alone. Ann Johnson will support investments in renewable energy and flood mitigation projects, which will diversify the economy and get Texans back to work.

9) Lynn Stucky (HD 64 — Denton County)

Lynn Stucky represents Denton County — a community where citizens have fought to reduce local air and water pollution. Denton County voters instituted a fracking ban, and local officials have also created required setbacks after companies drilled near schools, homes, and hospitals. These were rolled back by the state legislature, and when Stucky took office, he doubled down, voting for several laws that take away Denton’s ability to limit pollution in their own community.

While in office, Stucky has voted to make it more difficult for citizens and local governments to crack down on illegal pollution. He voted against public hearings on new fracking waste injection sites, and against raising penalties for companies that violate state laws.

  • Environment Texas Lifetime Score: 38%
  • Sierra Club 2019 Score: 19%

Climate candidate to support: Angela Brewer

In HD 64, $6 million dollars have been invested in wind and solar energy. Angela Brewer will stand up for the people fighting to reduce pollution in Denton County.

10) John Raney (HD 14 — Brazos County)

John Raney has taken anti-science votes out of step with HD 14’s flagship research institution: Texas A&M. He’s voted against a bill to provide regular reports on how climate change is already affecting Texans, and voted to strip the Texas governments’ ability to regulate carbon pollution. Texas is first in the nation in the severity of natural disasters — we need to incorporate the best-available science when we prepare for droughts, hurricanes, and floods, and listen to our experts at Texas A&M.

Like everyone else on this list, Raney has voted to make it significantly harder for local communities to take on polluters.

  • Environment Texas Lifetime Score: 49%
  • Sierra Club 2019 Score: 29%

Climate candidate to support: Janet Dudding

In HD 14, $3 million dollars have been invested in wind and solar energy. As a Katrina survivor, climate change is personal for Janet Dudding. She wants to tackle climate change in Texas and create good-paying jobs while doing it.

Feeling inspired? Help Texas tackle the climate crisis and create good jobs by supporting these key climate candidates today. Then, share this article with a friend!

This analysis was brought to you by Climate Cabinet Action Fund, helping candidates run and win on strong climate platforms — specific to their district. You can find scorecards for each state legislator from the Sierra Club and Environment Texas.

** Sources

Clean Energy Jobs

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Climate Polling

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Climate Impacts

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El Paso, Texas.