Enivornment
4:48 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

TCEQ Sunset Bill Gives Permit Applicants More Weight

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality lives on for another 12 years…at least according to the Texas House, who passed the sunset bill with some changes.

The biggest change environmentalists are fuming over is an amendment submitted by Rep. Warrren Chisum (R-Pampa) that would shift the burden of proof from companies to the person who requested a contested case hearing who must also show that a permit should not be granted or renewed.

An amendment like this would directly affect environmental organizations that usually are the ones that lead a contested case hearing or a lawsuit. The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club released this statement regarding the amendments that added to the bill.

“Key amendments to the bill on the House floor today have undermined that balance and have given polluters the best present they could have asked for to celebrate Earth Day later this week.”

A second amendment introduced by Rep.  Chisum and passed reduces fees paid by petroleum delivery companies. That money goes into a fund that pays for cleans up caused by old, broken, and abandon underground petroleum storage tanks. But Chisum told lawmakers it could help cut high gas prices.

At the end of the day, environmentalists weren’t too happy with some of the changes made to the sunset bill. Here’s a quick summary of what did and didn’t pass the House on this bill:

DID NOT PASS:

  • an amendment to change the TCEQ’s mission statement to include “the protection of human health and the environment. ”
  • an amendment limits a former TCEQ commissioner or executive director from lobbying or representing company or industry before the TCEQ for at least four years.

DID PASS:

  • increasing fines from $10,000 per day, per violation to $25,000 per day, per violation.
  • an amendment that requires electric generating facilities to study whether its water-cooling technology is best available.

The bill still needs to pass the Senate.