Harvard Environmental Law Review publishes article by Texas Law Professor Tom McGarity on climate disruption in recalcitrant states

The Harvard Environmental Law Journal recently published an article by Texas Law Professor Tom McGarity titled “But What About Texas? Climate Disruption in Recalcitrant States.”

The essay recounts the history of EPA’s efforts to deal with a recalcitrant state bureaucracy and EPA-bashing political leaders as EPA attempted to reduce GHG emissions in a state that emitted more GHGs than any other state. It then offers some observations on the impact of UARG on the future of GHG regulation in Texas, a state that views UARG as a victory and remains adamantly opposed to regulating GHGs unless required to do so by federal law.

To read the full article, visit

Melinda Taylor, “Texas Lawmakers Move to Stop Local Fracking Bans” (NBC)

A May 1 NBC article quoted Professor Melinda Taylor on Texas lawmakers’ move to stop local fracking bans. According to NBC, “Just as new scientific reports are reinforcing links between fracking and earthquakes, Texas legislators are moving to limit cities’ control over oil and gas drilling in their communities. The proposed law is worrying not only environmentalists but also some officials who say local control is the best way to protect people from earthquakes, polluted water and other possible effects of fracking.

Professor Taylor said that “among states with significant tracking, Texas was the only one without a law to protect property owners from damage from drilling, whether a Fort Worth homeowner or a West Texas rancher. The only recourse they have had until now has been whatever local restrictions are in place,” she said. “Local land-use issues have traditionally been within the purview of local jurisdictions in Texas and around the country for that matter,” she said. It just seems like it’s really both unusual and its unnecessary to take that authority away from these local jurisdictions. They’re closes to the problems.”

McCombs School of Business releases eighth annual national poll on public opinion about current energy issues

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AUSTIN — The McCombs School of Business released it’s eighth annual national poll on public opinion about current energy issues. The poll receives extensive news coverage within Texas and around the country. Its principal finding was thatartisan politics are polarizing Americans’ views of several controversial energy issues, including the Keystone XL pipeline and hydraulic fracturing, according to the latest version of The University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll.

The nationwide online poll, conducted March 4–13, shows that 72 percent of Republicans who say they are familiar with Keystone XL support its construction, compared with only 28 percent of Democrats familiar with the project.

Overall, less than half (42 percent) of the 2,078 survey respondents are familiar with Keystone XL, the final segment of a pipeline system that runs from western Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast. Construction of this last phase, which has yet to be approved, has become a lightning rod for contentious public debate.

Nearly 2 out of 3 Republicans (62 percent) say they would be more likely to vote for a political candidate who favors completion of Keystone XL, compared with only 29 percent of Democrats surveyed. That said, overall support among survey respondents for candidates who favor construction of the pipeline has declined, from 46 percent six months ago to 39 percent today.

“We’re seeing a continuing divergence of views on key energy issues that clearly tracks political party lines,” said UT Energy Poll Director Sheril Kirshenbaum.

Somewhat surprisingly, only 6 percent of the Democrats surveyed who are familiar with Keystone XL and oppose its construction cite climate change as a top concern. Among this group, environmental degradation is the top reason they oppose the pipeline (36 percent) followed by the risk of water contamination (14 percent).

Among Republicans familiar with Keystone XL who support its construction, respondents were equally split among greater energy independence (26 percent), job creation (25 percent) and lower energy prices (25 percent) as principal reasons they support the project.

Political affiliations also influence perceptions of hydraulic fracturing for domestic oil and gas production, which has increased dramatically during the past decade and is seen as a key contributor to lower oil prices. Among survey respondents familiar with the technology, 65 percent of Republicans support hydraulic fracturing, compared with only 28 percent of Democrats.

Just 44 percent of Americans say they are familiar with hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Among them, more survey respondents say they oppose it (44 percent) than support it (42 percent) for the first time.

Support for hydraulic fracturing on public lands also has declined. Among survey respondents familiar with the practice, 42 percent say its use should be banned on public lands, compared with 34 percent a year ago.

Again, political ideology appears to be a key determinant of respondents’ views, with 57 percent of Democrats supporting a ban of hydraulic fracturing on public lands, compared with only 23 percent of Republicans. Conversely, 56 percent of Republicans say hydraulic fracturing on public lands should be promoted, compared with only 23 percent of Democrats surveyed.

The UT Energy Poll showed strong support for allowing cities to ban hydraulic fracturing within their borders, even if state law otherwise permits it. Among respondents familiar with fracking, 58 percent say cities should be permitted to outlaw its use, while only 25 percent say municipalities should not have the authority to ban it locally.

“At present, it appears a large majority of Americans think cities should have the right to decide if they want to ban fracking locally,” Kirshenbaum noted.

Other findings in the UT Energy Poll:

  • Seventy percent of respondents say that climate change is occurring. This includes 86 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of Republicans.
  • Sixty-six percent of consumers consider today’s gas prices high, down from 93 percent one year ago — although they don’t expect low prices at the pump to last very long.
  • Eighteen percent say job creation is their top priority in terms of federal tax spending, down from 36 percent when the question was asked for the first time in September 2011.

The UT Energy Poll was launched in October 2011 to provide an objective, authoritative look at consumer attitudes and perspectives on key energy issues. The survey is designed to help inform national discussion, business planning and policy development. Data from the poll were weighted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income based on U.S. Census Bureau figures, as well as propensity scores, to ensure the sample’s composition reflects the actual U.S. population.

Media contacts:

Sheril Kirshenbaum
(517) 763-2710

Gary Rasp
(512) 585-2084

Press Mentions:

1) Huffington Post:
2) Houston Chronicle:
3) Fort Worth Weekly:
4) Fort Worth Business Press:
5) Austin American-Statesman:
6) Texas Tribune:
7) Natural Gas Intelligence/Shale Daily:
8) A Nation Divided On Keystone XL:
9) The Olympian:
10) Fuel Fix:
11) Star-Telegram:
12)  Austin American Statesman:
13) Bloomberg:
14) Dallas Business Journal:
15) NBC:
16) Midland Reporter Telegram:
17) Midland Reporter-Telegram:
18) The Keene Sentinel:
19) The Daily Texan :

Melinda Taylor, “House votes to bar fracking bans by cities,” (Dallas Morning News)

In an article about the House’s move on April 17, 2015 to bar cities from banning fracking and placing other limits on oil and gas drilling after a debate that pitted a key state industry against communities’ desire for local control, the Dallas Morning News quoted KBH Energy Center Executive Director Melinda Taylor on how the bill would leave a legal avenue wide open for oil and gas companies to challenge even the most noncontroversial of ordinances. “It’s really cutting into the tradition of local power in Texas,” said Professor Taylor. “It will open the door for a slew of new lawsuits that are frankly unnecessary.”