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Agency Activities: Environmental Assistance (FY2015-2016)

The following summarizes the agency’s activities regarding voluntary programs and renewing old and surplus materials. (Part of Chapter 2—Biennial Report to the 85th Legislature, FY2015-FY2016)

Environmental Assistance

Voluntary Programs

The TCEQ uses technical assistance, education, and pollution prevention programs to encourage environmental improvements. The Environmental Assistance Division (EAD) steers many of these programs in a direction that focuses on agency priorities and aligns with agency regulatory systems.

In fiscal 2015 and 2016, the division responded to 13,986 requests for assistance from small businesses and local governments. Of those, 663 received one-on-one assistance at their business site or facility.

In fiscal 2015, more than 180 small businesses and local governments took advantage of the EAD’s Site Visit Program, which allowed them a site visit, during which a contractor of the TCEQ used a checklist to identify problems with environmental compliance. After the visit, the businesses and facilities received recommendations about actions they could take to resolve those problems. In fiscal 2015, 48 participants resolved the issues that were identified.

For fiscal 2016, the program was modified to focus resources on the requirements of the federal Energy Policy Act. Under that act, all registered petroleum storage tanks must undergo an investigation at least once every three years. Through the Site Visit Program, PST facilities have an opportunity to receive an Energy Policy Act site visit. If they achieve full compliance with the Energy Policy Act’s checklist, they receive credit for their three-year investigation. Site visits do not lead to an investigation or citation, unless there is an imminent threat to human health or the environment.

In this first year of the new program focus, 178 site visits occurred, resulting in 77 compliant facilities. Those facilities that were not compliant received recommendations for resolving non-compliance issues so they can prepare for a future investigation under the Energy Policy Act.

In outreach to the smallest of water systems, the division developed an easy-to-use guide, Managing Small Public Water Systems (publication RG-501) in 2014. The guide includes simple instructions and worksheets to complete and maintain an asset-management plan with or without a computer. It covers system inventory and prioritization, planning, budgeting, assessing and protecting water sources, and best management practices.

Workshops on making the best use of RG-501 continued through fiscal 2015 and 2016 and were held in 13 cities, educating representatives from more than 350 water systems. Workshop locations included Midland, Uvalde, El Paso, Weslaco, Lubbock, New Braunfels, Denton, Rosenberg, Liberty, Cleveland, Texarkana, Tyler, and Golden.

Continuing with the same goal but focused on wastewater systems, the division developed another easy-to-use guide, Managing Small Domestic Wastewater Systems (RG-530). This guide also includes simple instructions and worksheets to complete and maintain an asset-management plan with or without a computer, and similarly covers system inventory and prioritization, planning, budgeting, and best management practices.

Workshops on making the best use of RG-530 were held in eight cities, educating representatives from more than 170 wastewater systems. Workshop locations included Round Rock, McKinney, Hillsboro, Conroe, Richmond, San Benito, Austin, and Tyler.

The TCEQ also offers educational opportunities and technical assistance through coordinated workshops, seminars, and education events, including the annual Environmental Trade Fair and Conference held in downtown Austin. During the last two years, the agency sponsored 15 seminars to provide technical information to almost 13,000 attendees.

For larger organizations such as refineries, universities, and municipal utility districts, the TCEQ offered technical advice on innovative approaches for improving environmental performance through pollution prevention planning.

All together, these efforts resulted in reductions of hazard ous waste by more than 5,126,000 tons and toxic chemicals by about 4,126,000 tons during fiscal 2015–16.

Renewing Old and Surplus Materials

Texas established the Resource Exchange Network for Eliminating Waste (RENEW) in 1988 to promote the reuse or recycling of industrial waste.

The materials-exchange network has assisted in the trading of millions of pounds of materials, including plastic, wood, and laboratory chemicals. These exchanges divert materials from landfills and help participants reduce waste-disposal costs and receive money for their surplus materials. Additionally, exchanges help protect the environment by conserving natural resources and reducing waste.

RENEW is a free, easy-to-use service. Listings are grouped under “Materials Available” for anyone offering raw materials to other facilities, and “Materials Wanted” for anyone looking to find raw materials.

Through the RENEW website <www.renewtx.org>, these participants can list and promote information on opportunities for exchanging at national and regional levels.

In fiscal 2015 and 2016, 109 users signed up to use RENEW, and 215 new listings were posted.

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