Media Advisory
From the Office of State Senator Leticia Van de Putte

For Immediate Release
March 9, 2007
Contact: Tiffany Champion
(512) 463-0126
(210) 733-6604

Senator Van de Putte Files Legislation in response to the Helotes Mulch Fire

(AUSTIN) -- Senator Leticia Van de Putte filed a bill package including SB 585, SB 1280, SB 1281, SB 1282 and SB 1621. The legislation is intended to prevent future disasters, such as the Helotes mulch fire, and protect the air and water quality.

SB 585 mandates in statute that the Edwards Aquifer Authority adopt rules relating to fire control. These rules will be made with the participation of local firefighters. The skill and expertise of both parties should ensure an adequate plan to best proceed in extinguishing a fire.

SB 1280 closes the loophole which allowed individuals and companies to use "recycling" facilities as a "dumping area" thereby endangering our resources. This bill creates a firm definition of recycling and limits the size on composting, recycling and mulching facilities.

SB 1281 outlines stringent requirements for any facility that is on a recharge or transition zone of any sole source aquifer. Sole source aquifers provide half or more of the water supply to certain metropolitan areas, such as the Edwards Aquifer does for San Antonio. Therefore, SB 1281 requires any facility located on a sensitive zone, it must include stringent groundwater protection features mandated by the TCEQ and fire lanes built into the facility.

SB 1282 allows the state's municipal solid waste superfund to be used for emergency situations such as a fire, which may pose a threat to public health, if an owner's finances are not available to cover the costs. In emergency situations which are beyond the ability of any single individual to control, the state has a responsibility to step in to protect the citizens. Currently the law allows funds to be used in order to clean up facilities after they have been abandoned by their owners, if there is a threat to the public.

SB 1621 requires that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality make rules to ensure that any recycling facility has financial coverage in case of a fire. By ensuring that financial resources are available, the owners of these facilities are financially accountable first and foremost, rather than making public dollars pay for negligent acts.

"Since Christmas, I have been working diligently at the forefront of this issue to protect the citizens of San Antonio and our Aquifer. Extinguishing the fire and closing the loopholes which allowed this disaster to occur continue to be among my top priorities," Van de Putte said. "I believe that this legislation is necessary to preventing future catastrophes from occurring."