Posts Tagged ‘Texas Sunset Advisory Commission’

NO RRCPublic Citizen and Sierra Club agreed with many of the recommendations made by the staff of the Sunset Commission that was released yesterday for the Railroad Commission, but more must be done to protect the health and quality of life of all Texans. 

“Overall these recommendations, if adopted, will create a leaner, smarter agency – with a name reflecting its mission – the Texas Oil and Gas Commission. Eliminating the 3 fulltime elected commissioners and other changes would save the state an estimated $23 million a year. Under staff recommendations natural gas rate-cases would be moved to the Public Utilities Commission (also under Sunset this year), and enforcement disputes would be moved from being resolved by a judge beholden to the agency to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). In addition the Commission would end the promotion of propane as a fuel, and rely more on administrative and regulatory fees to pay for their activities, rather than depend on general revenue” said Andy Wilson, a policy analyst for Public Citizen who studies good government, campaign finance, and climate change.

Advocates point out problems that are still likely to occur if staff recommendations are adopted, due to overlapping regulatory authority with other state agencies over issues including oil and gas drilling, coal ash waste, and uranium mining. “Sunset Staff has failed to clearly define which agency (TCEQ or RRC) will deal with what regulatory aspects of oil and gas drilling, particularly in the Barnett Shale,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. He added, “Texans deserve a single agency to regulate coal ash waste and uranium mining, rather than have regulatory authority at two different agencies, which confuses both industry and the general public.”

“Fracking or drilling in suburban areas represents one of the largest environmental issues facing Texas today.  Letting the Railroad Commission and TCEQ continue to share turf here is essentially punting,” added Wilson.

“Moving to an appointed board rather than an elected one is a smart choice, removing the inherent conflicts of interest and partisan politics created by our campaign finance system,” said Wilson.  “According to our analysis, over half of all campaign contributions to incumbent members of the Railroad Commission come from industries they are in charge of directly regulating.”

“However, there is no need to have a 5 person board when a 3 person commission will do.  Changing to this kind of board is already estimated to save $1.2 million— having a three person board will increase savings in this tight budget year,” added Wilson.

Also, according to Texas Open Meetings laws, two members of a five person board may confer with one another in private, while a three person board can only conduct business in public, open meetings.  “That could be a case of two steps forward, one step back,” said Wilson.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Child using inhaler because of dirty airThe EPA announced today that Texas’s much-discussed and derided flex permitting program does not follow the federal Clean Air Act (big surprise  </sarcasm>).  This was an action that began when the EPA under George W. Bush called into question the transparency and efficacy of the program which allows big polluters to skirt the federal Clean Air Act.  From their press release:

EPA is disapproving the permit program after determining that it allows companies to avoid certain federal clean air requirements by lumping emissions from multiple units under a single “cap” rather than setting specific emission limits for individual pollution sources at their plants.

“Today’s action improves our ability to provide the citizens of Texas with the same healthy-air protections that are provided for citizens in all other states under the Clean Air Act.,” said Al Armendariz, Regional Administrator.  “EPA will continue working closely with Texas, industry, environmental organizations, and community leaders to assure an effective and legal air permitting system.”

We’re chiming in on this, with a joint press release from the Alliance for Clean Texas (ACT), where you can go to read the full press release.  Here’s the highlights: (more…)

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The TCEQ granted a permit to re-open the ASARCO foundry over protests of staff, residents of El Paso, and local leaders. Luckily, the EPA intervened and stopped it.

You’ve probably heard by now.  The TCEQ has failed to adhere to the federal Clean Air Act, jeopardizing our health, our safety, and the quality of our air. This is why, on Tuesday, May 25, the EPA took over the TCEQ’s authority to grant clean air permits for 40 facilities across the state of Texas, most notably the Flint Hills Resources’ crude oil refinery near Corpus Christi.

The TCEQ has failed to fulfill its promises to the federal government and the citizens of Texas, whom it is supposed to protect.

The Sunset Advisory Commission is a 12-member body appointed by the Lieutenant Governor and the speaker of the house to identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in government agencies. Every 12 years, over 150 government agencies are reviewed for potential changes and improvements in their responsibilities and operations. And since the review of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the TCEQ, is quickly approaching, we’re getting organized!  Will you join us for a call next Thursday, June 10th at 6pm CT?

From the Alliance for Clean Texas:

The Alliance for a Clean Texas (ACT) will launch its 2010-2011 TCEQ sunset campaign with a conference call next Thursday, June 10th at 6:30 p.m. All Texans committed to protecting our state’s environment and health are invited to participate in the call.

ACT is a coalition of organizations and individuals around the state working together to make this a milestone year for environmental protection in Texas. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is currently under review by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. Now is the time to turn our concerns about how TCEQ does and does not do its job of protecting our environment and our health into real, lasting reform.

In the last week, TCEQ has been at the center of two major stories about the Texas environment. The EPA has finally taken action to bring TCEQ air permitting back into compliance with the federal Clean Air Act–a move opposed by the TCEQ commissioners. And Fort Worth is reeling with the news that (more…)

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The other shoe has finally dropped.

Back in September 2009, we let you know how the EPA had issued rulings that condemned TCEQ’s air quality permitting practices. And today, the EPA stopped asking nicely and took some action.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Objecting to how Texas regulates air pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it is taking over the issuance of an operating permit for a Corpus Christi refinery and could step in at some 39 other major facilities across the state.

“I think the writing will be on the wall — unless we start seeing better permits that address our objections, we are very likely to begin federalizing others,” EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz said in a telephone interview. “The state is not following federal Clean Air Act requirements.”

At issue here is the process TCEQ uses to permit new industries that contribute to air pollution.  Specifically, these are called “flex permits” and have been roundly criticized by environmentalists and others for being insufficient in protecting human health and safety from dirty air.  During the Bush Administration, the EPA turned a blind eye to these practices, but now are finally giving TCEQ and flex permitting the scrutiny they deserve.

Of interest here is the Sunset Review process that TCEQ will undergo this year and next, giving the Legislature the opportunity to reform the state agency. With EPA showing they are not going to allow the loopholes that flex permitting creates, it is time for TCEQ and lawmakers alike to sunset these specific practices and go about permitting new facilities based on things like… oh, the Clean Air Act.  Because if TCEQ won’t, it certainly looks like EPA will.

Now if only EPA will ask TCEQ to regulate or at least measure emissions of greenhouse gases like the Texas legislature asked TCEQ to do and which they have promised to do in the past?


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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In 1977, the Texas Legislature created the Sunset Advisory Commission to identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in government agencies. The 12-member Commission is a legislative body that reviews the policies and programs of more than 150 government agencies every 12 years. The Commission questions the need for each agency, looks for potential duplication of other public services or programs, and considers new and innovative changes to improve each agency’s operations and activities. The Commission seeks public input through hearings on every agency under Sunset review and recommends actions on each agency to the full Legislature. In most cases, agencies under Sunset review are automatically abolished unless legislation is enacted to continue them.

The Commission holds public hearings on each agency under review. These hearings offer the public an opportunity to testify about an agency and comment on the Sunset staff’s recommendations. Witness affirmation forms are available at the meeting if you would like to testify before the Commission Public hearings are webcast and archives are available. (more…)

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