Reports

Report | TexPIRG | Transportation

Growing Greener

Austin is one of America’s fastest-growing cities. This growth has brought dynamism to the city, but has also created environmental problems. Because much of Austin’s growth has taken place at the urban fringe, the addition of new residents and businesses has caused persistent and worsening problems with traffic congestion, air pollution and water quality, as more undeveloped land is converted into new development. To accommodate the continued influx of new people to the city, Austin is currently revising its land development code in a process called CodeNEXT. This revision seeks to house a growing population in ways that minimize the increase of developed land. Compact development can deliver tangible benefits for the environment – reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, curbing the flow of polluted runoff into streams and lakes, and protecting natural areas and agricultural lands. By adopting strong policies to mitigate the local impacts of greater density, such as green infrastructure to manage stormwater, Austin can develop in a way that will bring lasting environmental benefits.

Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Tax

Offshore Shell Games

In 2016, 73 percent of Fortune 500 companies – including 37 headquartered in Texas- maintained subsidiaries in offshore tax havens, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by TexPIRG Education Fund and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Collectively, multinationals reported booking $2.6 trillion offshore, with just 30 companies accounting for 68 percent of this total, and just four companies accounting for a quarter of the total.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Chain Reaction III

The third annual Chain Reaction report, which grades companies on their antibiotics policies and practices, found that 14 out of the top 25 restaurants in the U.S. have taken steps to restrict the routine use of antibiotics in the production of the chicken they serve, up from nine just one year ago. While restaurant chains made great progress on chicken, the groups who authored the report found that there were no new commitments to limit antibiotic use in beef and pork.

FACT SHEET: Environmental and Health Concerns About Oil and Gas Spills After Hurricane Harvey

Texas’ oil and gas regulator, the Railroad Commission of Texas, has received reports of spilled oil, gas, and other fluids from at least 20 locations, involving thousands of barrels of oil and produced water. We may never know the full impacts of these spills, but here’s what we know now.

Report | TexPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group | Budget

Following the Money 2017: Special Districts

Citizens’ ability to understand how their tax dollars are spent is fundamental to democracy. Budget and spending transparency holds government officials accountable for making smart decisions, checks corruption, and provides citizens an opportunity to affect how government dollars are spent.

“Special districts” are a type of government agency that exist outside of traditional forms of general purpose local or state governments, and serve key governmental functions such as public transit or housing. However, special districts are poorly understood by the public and often do business without adhering to modern standards of government budget or spending transparency. The lack of transparency and accountability of many special districts has caused concern among some state agencies and government watchdogs, as it can contribute to an atmosphere conducive to lowered efficiency and potential misconduct. 

A review of 79 special districts’ online financial transparency shows that while a few districts are meeting the goals of “Transparency 2.0” – a standard of comprehensive, one-stop, oneclick budget accountability and accessibility – the vast majority do little to inform citizens about how they spend money. To empower and engage the public, enable citizen oversight of all branches of government, and improve the efficiency with which they operate, special districts, along with local and state governments, should expand the amount and improve the quality of spending data that are made available to the public online.

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