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'I want to play with my dogs and go outside' | Children asked lawmakers to tighten environmental regulations during legislative hearing

The Sunset Advisory Commission found issues with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality including transparency, accountability and protecting resources.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulates and permits regarding emission, disposal of hazardous chemicals and public health pollutants. 

The State oversight commission recommended TCEQ make changes.

The Sunset Advisory Commission’s report shows:

  • TCEQ’s Policies and Processes Lack Full Transparency and Opportunities for Meaningful Public Input, Generating Distrust and Confusion Among Members of the Public.
  • TCEQ’s Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Processes Need Improvements to Consistently and Equitably Hold Regulated Entities Accountable. 
  • TCEQ’s Oversight of Water Could Better Protect the State’s Scarce Resources .
  • TCEQ and OPIC Lack Certain Transparent and Efficient Processes for OPIC to More Effectively Represent the Public’s Interest.

Lawmakers heard public testimony Wednesday on how TCEQ operates. Dozens of people spoke in the hearing, including some children.

“I want to play with my dogs and go outside, but now there is a chance that my dogs and me when we go outside can get diseases. I can get diseases and special things that aren’t supposed to happen because we have more than the safe amount of chemicals in the air,” Joshua Moreno testified.

Some of the Sunset Advisory Commission’s recommendations include:

  • Clarify statute to require public meetings on permits to be held both before and after the issuance of the final draft permit.
  • Direct the commission to vote in a public meeting on key foundational policy decisions that establish how staff approach permitting and other regulatory actions. 
  • Direct TCEQ to develop a guidance document to explain how it uses the factors in rule to make affected person determinations. 
  • Require TCEQ’s compliance history rating formula to consider all evidence of noncompliance while decreasing the current emphasis on site complexity, and direct the agency to regularly update compliance history ratings. 
  • Require TCEQ to consider all violations when classifying an entity as a repeat violator. 
  • Require TCEQ-regulated entities with temporary or open-ended permits to annually confirm their operational status. 
  • Direct TCEQ to reclassify recordk eping violations based on the potential risk and severity of the violation.

TCEQ’s Executive Director wrote that most of the Sunset Commission’s recommendations need legislative action to make changes.

He wrote the agency will look to make changes where it can.

The KVUE Defenders investigates environmental problems in Texas. If you have a story, email them at defenders@kvue.com.

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