4 The record articles

TCEQ Sunset Bill

Posted: May 31st, 2023

Authors: Wesley H. 

This year, the representatives of the Texas Legislature met in Austin for the 88th Regular Session. In this Legislative Session, which ran from January 10th and adjourned May 29th, there were over 11,000 bills introduced. This article addresses Senate Bill (SB) 1397 or the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) Sunset Bill which has major implications on the operation of TCEQ going forward.

A “Sunset Bill” is the vehicle to take the recommendations from the Sunset Advisory Commission and pass them through the legislative process. In Texas, the Sunset Advisory Commission is a government entity that is responsible for evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of other state agencies and programs. This commission will perform periodic (about every 12 years) and comprehensive reviews of state agencies, including the TCEQ, with the goal of evaluating how these agencies utilize funds and provide services to the public. At the completion of their review, the Sunset Advisory Commission provides recommendations to improve, change, or abolish these agencies.

On the docket for last year’s Sunset Advisory Review was the TCEQ. In their review, the Sunset Advisory Commission ultimately determined that the TCEQ should live on as a necessary regulatory entity in Texas; however, the agency should have some changes. The main findings were two-fold: The TCEQ was found to have lacked adequate transparency with the public which prohibited Texans from appropriate participation in the permitting process. Additionally, TCEQ received a ‘Needs Approvement’ in their Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement procedures.

To address this review, representatives of the Texas Legislature introduced SB 1397. This bill was unanimously approved in the Texas Senate and received little sparring in the House. Currently, the Bill has been passed in the Texas Legislature and on its way to Governor Abbott’s desk. Below is a high-level summary of changes that are coming to TCEQ based on SB 1397:

  • TCEQ will post all permit applications on its website.
  • TCEQ will be required to publish notice of permit applications on its website and will be required to make accommodations for residents without access to the internet.
  • The maximum daily penalty that the TCEQ can enforce for a violation will increase from $25,000 to $40,000 per day. These must be repeated violations with detrimental effect on human health and the environment that TCEQ determines could have been reasonably avoided.
  • TCEQ will establish a small business and local government enforcement division to provide compliance and technical resources for these businesses.
  • TCEQ will establish a Standard Permit for temporary concrete plants that support public work projects.

If you have any questions on how this Bill could affect you or your future permitting projects reach out to me, Wesley Hill, at whill@all4inc.com.


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