Fostering dialogue across the aisle on energy and water policy

Issues related to how our state sustainably and equitably manages our energy and water resources can be technically complex and unnecessarily politicized. It is critical that our decision makers have up-to-date, unbiased information about these issues, along with informed dialogue around strategies to address them. With funding from the Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation, partners are providing opportunities for shared learning among Texas’ elected leaders.

Interested parties in the CapitolPowerHouse Texas coordinates educational opportunities for the growing Texas Energy and Climate Caucus, established in 2021 as a bipartisan space for members of the Texas Legislature to build consensus around strategies for decarbonization. For example, PowerHouse coordinates periodic “Energy Innovation Forums” for legislators and their staff on topics such as increasing energy efficiency and expanding transmission capacity, featuring a range of perspectives and providing opportunities for across-the-aisle dialogue and collaboration. PowerHouse also pairs student fellows with bipartisan legislators to ensure that these decision makers have energy policy expertise close at hand, and makes its Energy Policy Advisory Council, a group of expert researchers from institutions across the state, available to legislators for consultation.

The Texas Water Foundation supports the educational activities of the Texas House Water Caucus, established in 2023 as a bipartisan forum to inform members of the Texas House of Representatives and their staff about water security needs, as well as to support the prioritization of water policy and cultivate the next generation of water champions at the Legislature. TWF built an online portal for caucus members that serves as a one-stop shop for everything water, such as a history of water policy in Texas, an overview of the entities across the state that manage water, a library of resources and a database of water experts. During the last legislative session, TWF’s “Water Day at the Capitol” provided caucus members and their staff an opportunity for meaningful conversation on water infrastructure needs, including water loss and nature-based strategies. In addition, TWF provided caucus members with tools to communicate about the importance of Texas’ water challenges to their constituents, coordinated media interviews and highlighted statewide efforts to address water security.

Patricia Zavala, PowerHouse’s Executive Director, summarized the importance of this work by noting that “Forging a sustainable future for Texas requires bringing together diverse perspectives, cultivating the next generation of leaders and grounding policy decisions in rigorous scientific research.”