They’re Baaaacccck!

They’re Baaaacccck!

Soon enough, anyway. The 79th Legislature will be sworn in in just a few weeks, but the lawmakers are already busy pre-filing bills. Only a few to date have any real significance for TCEQ’s operations – indeed, new TCEQ Intergovernmental Relations Director Leonard Olson (who moved over from the Water Development Board) cited only seven bills of interest filed through Decembe r10. We have narrowed that list down to five bills of interest, as follows:

House Bill 39 (Eissler) would prohibit the outdoor burning of household refuse on a lot that is in a neighborhood or is smaller than 5 acres. An offense under this statute would be a Class C misdemeanor. All convicted defendants would have to perform 60 hours of community service in addition to any fine. The service must consist of picking up litter in the county in which the defendant resides or working at a recycling facility if such a program is available in the local community.

House Bill 86 (Smith) proposes modifications to the Texas Water Code and Health and Safety Code that would require TCEQ by rule to develop standards for “using,” rather than “evaluation,” compliance history. The bill drops consent decrees and federal actions from compliance history components only as they related to compliance with applicable legal requirements under TCEQ jurisdiction (so as to avoid any double counting). It also requires TCEQ to establish criteria for classifying a repeat violator (see above), giving consideration to the SIZE and complexity of the site “at which the violations occurred, and limiting consideration to violations of the same nature in the same environmental media.”

The bill also requires that any information or data about a site that is placed on the Internet by TCEQ is subject to a quality assurance and quality control procedure, including an opportunity for the owner and operator of the site to review the information before it is placed on the Internet.

House Bill 170 (Deshotel) would require TCEQ to impose an administrative penalty for excessive emissions events and to apply half of each such penalty to a supplemental environmental project. TCEQ would also be charged to appoint a committee for each such project to assist in defining its goals, scope, and duration, planning a budget, and developing and implementing the project. These committees would include a TCEQ representative, a representative of the respondent, a local public health official, and four members of the affected community.

The bill adds site-specific air quality monitoring and projects that improve the health of individuals in the affected community to projects eligible for SEP monies. No SEP could be authorized unless a majority of the committee approves and provides an initial budget and defines its goals, scope, and duration. The committee would also establish an implementation plan and a timetable for the project and issue a progress report to TCEQ every 6 months until a project is completed or terminated. The respondent would pay all committee expenses unless TCEQ and the committee approve an alternative payment method. Committee members would be entitled to reimbursement for expenses.

The bill also charges TCEQ to report to the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the house and the chairs of environmental committees in both houses on the status and progress of all SEP’s by the last day of December in each even-numbered year. The bill further requires TCEQ, inconjunction with EPA Region 6, to establish “quantified industry- and region-specific criteria for determining when emissions events are excessive. Corrective action plans pursuant to such emissions events penalties must include installation of site-specific air monitoring devices at the facility.

Senate Bill 93 (Shapleigh) would require TCEQ to amend existing rules to require those who generate, collect, convey, transport, process, store, or dispose of sewage sludge, water treatment sludge, grit trap waste, or grease trap waste to keep records and use a uniform manifest. The goal is to ensure that the waste is transported to an appropriate processing, storage, or disposal facility or site permitted or authorized for that purpose. The rules must require the generator, transporter, and disposer of these wastes to maintain for at least 3 years a copy of the transportation manifest. The rules must also require that aggregate amounts of waste recorded on the manifests match the amounts of waste reported to TCEQ each year.

Senate Bill 95 (Shapleigh) would establish an asthma research center administered by Texas Tech University System that would operate in collaboration with the University of Texas at El Paso and TCEQ. The center would conduct research related to asthma and conditions associated with asthma, including health problems associated with industrial pollution and other environmental contamination in Texas in the region that borders the United Mexican States.

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