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Office of the Public Interest Counsel

This office helps citizens who have questions about the legal aspects of dealing with the TCEQ, its hearing process, rules, and enforcement proceedings. Assistance is also available to anyone affected by a particular permit application or other agency authorization.

 

The Office of Public Interest Counsel (OPIC) (Address, Phone, Fax) was created by the legislature to represent the public interest in matters considered by the Commission and to ensure that the Commission is responsive to citizens' concerns regarding environmental quality and consumer protection. The Public Interest Counsel is appointed by the Commission. The office is also staffed with six other licensed attorneys. The office does not formally represent individuals. However, OPIC attorneys routinely assist the public by explaining agency procedures and helping citizens gain an understanding of how they may participate in Commission decisions that affect them. Assistance is available to anyone who is affected by a particular permit application or other agency authorization. Public Interest Counsel staff also provide assistance to people with questions about enforcement proceedings.

OPIC carries out its responsibilities by (1) participating as a party in contested case hearings regarding air quality, water quality, water rights, and applications for solid waste disposal permits and utility rate increases; (2) participation in proposed rulemakings; (3) reviewing and participating in enforcement matters; and (4) participation in matters set for consideration at the Commission's public meetings.

As a party to every permitting and utility-related contested case proceeding, the office strives to provide balance to the hearings process. OPIC participation ensures that environmental permitting applications satisfy all legal requirements and will be adequately protective of human health and the environment. With respect to utility rate increase applications, OPIC seeks to ensure that changes in water or sewer rates are justified and reasonable. The office also provides comments to the Commission on proposed agency rules and policy, including rulemaking projects that have a significant effect on public participation.

OPIC works independently of other TCEQ offices to bring forward relevant issues from a public interest perspective. The office's goal is to ensure that all relevant evidence is developed and made part of the record so that the Commission may make informed decisions and issue permits that are protective of human health and the environment.