Austin City Council pauses jet fuel storage search and approves plan to sue Netflix, Hulu, other streamers

Austin City Council met for its last regular voting session of 2021 on Dec. 9. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Council met for its last regular voting session of 2021 on Dec. 9. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin City Council met for its last regular voting session of 2021 on Dec. 9. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

In addition to considering several housing policy items that have become a priority for the body over the past month, Austin City Council approved dozens of additional items covering development, disaster response and resident support at its Dec. 9 meeting.

The session was the final scheduled meeting on council's 2021 slate, although lingering questions over the creation of a tax increment reinvestment zone, or TIRZ, for the South Central Waterfront district will see members gather in a specially called session before the end of the month. The early December meeting was also Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison's last with that title, one she will hand off to District 10 Council Member Alison Alter in 2022, per an earlier agreement.

Veterans affairs planning moves ahead

The creation of a dedicated city resource for Austin veterans has been on council's wishlist for years, and a measure brought by District 3 Council Member Pio Renteria could see the process move along within the next few months.

Renteria's Dec. 9 resolution calls for a report on the cost and steps it would take to create an office for veteran and military affairs by April. Renteria and other officials who spoke on the item said they are supportive of seeing a veterans affairs office finally come together in the near future.


“Our veterans have made a commitment to our country, and they served proudly and bravely, and they deserve the service that they need. Austin is one of the biggest cities, and we really need to start reaching out to our veterans," Renteria said. "All of our veterans that proudly serve need this type of services, and I’m just really appreciative that we’re going to have a one-stop shop for all our veterans here in Austin."

Jet fuel concerns spark pause

As the city and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport continue planning for the airfield's rapid growth, the addition of Jet-A jet fuel storage space there has generated some concern among its east side neighbors. In response to worries that more jet fuel could bring negative environmental and health consequences to the area, a resolution authored by District 2 Council Member Vanessa Fuentes and approved by council will see the new storage facility put on hold.

Fuentes said that, while the growing airport needs to build out its jet fuel capacity, residents also need more time and information to consider how the fuel site will affect them.

“What this resolution does is that it calls for us to reopen the community outreach process to make sure that we leave no stone unturned. It directs city staff to not only continue to provide information to our neighbors, but it really hones in on how that communication and outreach is done," Fuentes said.

Next steps include public meetings on the site selection process in the next few weeks, the results of which will be shared with council in early February.

City moves to sue video streamers

Council also authorized contracting outside legal services for a lawsuit Austin plans to bring against Netflix, Hulu, Disney and other video service providers. City officials believe the companies have avoided paying fees related to local video streaming in Austin for over a decade.

"Under state law, private use of the city’s right of way requires compensation for the use. Since 2007, the video streaming companies such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney have provided their video services to subscribing customers via broadband internet through wireline facilities located at least partially in the public right of way," a city spokesperson said in an email.

The spokesperson pointed to Abilene, Amarillo, Arlington, Carrollton, Dallas, Frisco, Garland, Grand Prairie, Houston, Mesquite, Plano, Sugar Land and Waco as other Texas cities also seeking missed streaming fees based on right of way use.

The city did not respond to several questions covering the potential scope of the missed payments and details on city infrastructure involved in the claim.
By Ben Thompson

Austin City Hall Reporter

Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2019 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston. He spent more than two years reporting on Montgomery County and The Woodlands area before moving to Austin in 2021 to cover City Hall and other news throughout the city. Contact Ben with questions, tips or feedback at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @BThompson_CI.