Population: 20,044,141
Counties: 254
Governor Rick Perry

Key Laws/Administrative Actions/Reports

Click here for the amount of protected land in Texas, and click here to review Texas's federal transportation spending.
Source:  Pew Center on the States & Changing Direction:  Federal Transportation Spending in the 1990s. Surface Transportation Policy Project

Key Laws:
For an overview of Texas planning and zoning statutes, see a summary provided by the American Planning Association.

Administrative Actions:
Brownfields Voluntary Cleanup Program
The most effective method of dealing with brownfields­abandoned, idled, or underused properties where contamination hinders economic development­is through voluntary cleanup by the person responsible for the contamination. To encourage the cleanup of brownfields, the TNRCC's Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) provides important incentives that can ease many of the concerns that lenders and purchasers have about property cleanup and redevelopment. 

The success of the TNRCC's Voluntary Cleanup Program stems from its
incentives for participation: 

  • Non-responsible parties, such as future lenders and landowners, are released from all liability to the state for the cleanup of past contamination. 
  • All parties are protected from TNRCC enforcement actions while in compliance with the VCP. 
  • All parties are protected from EPA enforcement action under RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) or CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act) while they are in compliance with the VCP and after a certificate of completion has been issued.
Non-Attainment Status for EPA Air Quality Standards 
2000 is a critical year for the state's ozone non-attainment areas:  Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston-Galveston, and Beaumont-Port Arthur.  For each of these areas, the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) will be required to prepare a "full attainment demonstration"--in other words, show exactly how each area is to achieve compliance with the federal one-hour standard.  As these urban communities face being judged by the one-hour standard, local officials are taking seriously a range of possible consequences, such as tailpipe emissions testing, cleaner gasoline, reduced highway funding, and even restrictions on new business development.  For information on the standards and upcoming public hearings, http://www.tnrcc.state.tx.us/catalog/pd/020/99-04/clearaironehr.html

Smart Growth Initiative
February 25,1998  City of Austin's Smart Growth Initiative is trying to combat sprawl in Austin.  Their achievements to date have been to create incentives for development to take place in the east (Desired Development Zone) rather than the geographically vulnerable hill country to the west (Drinking Water Protection Zone).  The natural habitat, species, and springs in the west part of Austin are at risk by continued growth.  http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/smartgrowth/ (Also found on the Sprawl Resource Guide, http://www.plannersweb.com/sprawl/sprawl6.html).

Proposition 2
Austin's Proposition 2 "was a Smart Growth Initiative designed to steer dense development away from environmentally sensitive areas by using City funds to purchase, either in fee or through conservation easements…."  (Executive proposal summary/Remarks of Mayor Kirk Watson settlement agreement between Bradley Interests and City of Austin, http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/news/bsa_mayor_remarks.htm)

The Sierra Club: Lone Star Chapter: A grassroots environmental organization dedicated to protect and preserve the natural and human environment.  It is a membership organization with over 600,000 members nation wide. The Lone Star chapter includes all of Texas except El Paso and has more than 21,000 members. 
Tel: 512-305-6296

The Sprawl Net:
From the School of Architecture at Rice University, The Sprawl Net is a site where urban sprawl topics are discussed on the World Wide Web. 

Texas Center for Policy Studies:
TCPS works with local, regional, and state non-profit groups to provide assistance on public interest issues. TCPS emphasizes the connection that economic development policies must have with environmental and public health issues.  They also provide research and publications. Their work is intended to create a partnership with citizen groups.

Gulf Coast Institute
The Gulf Coast Institute seeks a livable community with a dynamic economy that revitalizes and protects neighborhoods, improves access, increases mobility choices, improves air and water quality, protects green space and natural resources, and builds a sense of place and community.  The Gulf Coast Institute’s primary purpose is to study the process of urban growth, to explore and communicate problems and possible solutions, and to foster dialogue and collaborative initiatives to improve the quality of economy, community, and environment in the region. The basis of its work is the set of principles and concepts widely known as Smart Growth.

The Sierra Club on September 9, 2000 released a nationwide report identifying those U.S. cities most threatened by "sprawl"—low density, automobile-dependent development beyond the edge of service and employment areas. Austin was ranked second among the five most sprawl-threatened medium cities (those with a population of between 500,000 and one million). McAllen was named as the number one most sprawl-threatened among small cities (those with a population of 200,000 to 500,000). The Sierra Club report is entitled The Dark Side of the American Dream: The Costs and Consequences of Suburban Sprawl. (Sierra Club home page, "Sierra Report Documents Sprawl Problems")

Since the explosive growth of the computer industry in central Texas during the 1990's, development and growth have been central to many disputes in Austin and the surrounding area.  Recognizing the need to prevent growth in the outlying hills and along a fragile watershed, city leaders have attempted to direct growth inward—through a combination of carrots and sticks--where infrastructure currently exists.  For a review of articles in the Austin American-Statesman dealing with development and smart growth in Austin over the past year, please visit             http://www.austin360.com/community/features/development.html 

"Environmental Groups Call for Bold Air Reform", Press Release by the Texas Air Crisis Campaign, a project of the Texas Center for Policy Studies.

"'We Are Feeling The Growing Pains'; Austin is known for its music, its politics and lately, its suburban sprawl." Newsday.  January 9, 2001.

"Gold spikes mark start of rail line," Houston Chronicle. March 13, 2001.

"Houston Triumphant," Reis.com

"24 lanes urged for Katy Freeway," Houston Chronicle. April 6, 2001.

"The big question is how neighborhoods will look after they are developed," Houston Chronicle. April 7, 2001. 

Farmland Loss in Hill Country
Hays County's farms, ranches and open lands generate three times more in tax revenues than they receive in public services, according to a study released today by American Farmland Trust. The Cost of Community Services study also found that tax revenues from residential development fall short of paying for the public services it receives.  Hays County, located between Austin and San Antonio in Texas's desirable "hill country", has seen its population more than double in the last twenty years. 

Utopia Limited: Houston's Ring around the Beltway, by Richard Ingersoll The Sprawl Net, http://riceinfo.rice.edu/~lda/Sprawl_Net/Features/INGEutopia1.html