Texan Offers Very Texan Plan for the Coast of Texas

January 2, 2018, 9am PST by Katharine Jose
In a new book, lawyer Jim Blackburn suggests that engaging private landowners is the only way to manage the coast of his home state.

Hurricane Harvey brought up a number of questions for residents of the Gulf Coast of Texas. Was the damage so severe because of zoning, or sprawl, or climate change? Is it better to rebuild or buy out? Is a storm just as severe inevitable?

And more than anything, how do we keep this from happening again?

Environmental lawyer Jim Blackburn presents one strategy in his new book, A Texan Plan for the Texas Coast, calling “not for greater regulation but for new markets.”

There are several unique attributes of the Gulf Coast of Texas that make a private-sector approach to management the strongest, according to the author, who leads a research group at Rice University called the Severe Storm Prevention, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters Center (SSPEED).

“The Texas Gulf coast is one of the least regulated of U.S. coastal areas. Blackburn attests that without federal environmental law (Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act) and the Army Corps of Engineers, for which he taught in the 1980s, there would be no environmental law on the Texas coast. Since 1972, when Texas rejected the federal regulations and funding of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), the state has more or less managed its own coast.”

A related attribute is that 80 percent of the land along the Texas Gulf Coast is privately owned. Private property rights in Texas are sacred, so that’s unlikely to change.

“In a market economics based approach, private landholders would sell carbon sequestration credits to corporations in the form of (unregulated) commodity contracts. The consumer would then, ostensibly, purchase such products branded as carbon-neutral.”

Not everyone believes that a voluntary system would be effective, but “Blackburn is optimistic. In his view, eco-services of ranching, birding, and fishing would continue to be maintained through private litigation, entrepreneurship, competition, and personal commitment."

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Published on Tuesday, December 26, 2017 in Offcite via The Urban Edge