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Compliance History Basics

Explains how compliance histories, ratings, and classifications are assigned and used by TCEQ staff.

As required (30 TAC Chapter 60), we rate the compliance history of every owner or operator of a facility that is regulated under any of these state environmental laws:

  • the water-quality laws of Texas Water Code Chapter 26
  • laws for the installation and operation of injection wells (TWC Chapter 27)
  • Subsurface Area Drip Dispersal Systems (TWC Chapter 32)
  • the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act (Texas Health & Safety Code Chapter 361)
  • the Texas Clean Air Act (THSC Chapter 382)
  • Removal of Convenience Switches (THSC Chapter 375)
  • the Texas Radiation Control Act (THSC Chapter 401)

In our databases, we refer to these owners and operators as “customers.” A customer could be an individual, a company, a governmental agency, or any of several other kinds of organizations.

If a customer is affiliated with more than one “regulated entity”— our general term for a facility that we regulate—then we develop more than one compliance history rating for that customer:

  • one rating for the customer’s overall compliance history, considering all facilities and activities that we must consider
  • a separate rating for that customer’s compliance rating at each regulated entity

For example, a company that owns two landfills and three injection wells would have:

  • 2 compliance histories for the landfills (one each)
  • plus 3 for the injection wells (again, one for each well)
  • plus 1 compliance history for the company overall

for a total of 6 (= 2 + 3 + 1) entries in the Compliance History Database.

We also enforce many state laws that we are not authorized to consider in creating compliance histories. The following laws are not included under the compliance history rule:

  • water rights (Texas Water Code Chapter 11)
  • water rates and services (TWC Chapter 13)
  • occupational licensing and registration—for example, the licensing of operators of water-treatment plants (TWC Chapter 37)
  • minimum standards of sanitation and health protection measures (Texas Health & Safety Code Chapter 341)
  • waste minimization, recovery, and recycling (THSC Chapter 363)
  • on-site sewage disposal systems (THSC Chapter 366)
  • toxic chemical release reporting (THSC Chapter 370)
  • the collection, management, and recycling of used oil (THSC Chapter 371)
  • any other topics not covered by the laws mentioned under "Who Is Rated"

The compliance history of a customer—overall or with a particular regulated entity—is based on many factors. From this history, our staff develops a numerical rating (0 = best; the score increases with poorer compliance). This numerical rating is then converted to a general classification.

Basis of the Compliance History

The compliance history entails both positive and negative factors related to the customer's environmental performance at a site over the past five years—for example, whether at this site this customer has:

  • conducted a self-audit under the Texas Environmental, Health, and Safety Audit Privilege Act (see TCEQ publication RG-173 Adobe Acrobat PDF Document )
  • participated in voluntary environmental management systems
  • participated in TCEQ-sponsored voluntary pollution reduction programs
  • received an enforcement order, court judgment, consent decree, or criminal conviction for environmental violations under the jurisdiction of the TCEQ or the EPA
  • received an enforcement order, court order, or criminal conviction related to environmental violations in another state
  • received a citation for a chronic excessive emissions event
  • received a notice of violation from TCEQ
  • received one or more inspections from TCEQ (and, if so, the results of those inspections)

This information is compiled in a document called a compliance history report.

How a Compliance History Becomes a Rating

State rules spell out a procedure for quantifying the significance of each factor in the compliance history. The resulting rating is, in a sense, a measure of the customer’s distance from compliance. A customer’s rating increases with each failure to comply. We round this calculated value to the nearest hundredth of a point.

If we have no information on which to base a rating, the customer is not assigned a rating and is designated as "unclassified."

How a Rating Becomes a Classification

Ratings are converted to classifications as follows:
If the calculated* rating is: Then the performance is classified as: This classification means that at this site the customer:
Below 0.10 High Has an above-satisfactory compliance record.
0.10–55.00 Satisfactory Generally complies with environmental regulations.
Greater than 55.00 Unsatisfactory Performs below minimal acceptable performance standards established by the commission.

Ratings (and, therefore, classifications) are updated each September 1 based on the compliance history for the previous five years.

We publish compliance history classifications online in these two ways:

New classifications are published each November, reflecting the September 1 update. Periodically, the list and online database are updated to incorporate changes that have resulted from corrections or appeals.

By law, we must consider the current classification and an updated compliance history report of a customer in many of our regulatory decisions. For example, unsatisfactory performers are allowed to continue operating under their current permit (see note below), but:

  • They might not be able to renew existing permits at the affected sites.
  • They might not be able to obtain new permits.
  • They will be subject to stricter permit conditions in the future.
  • The affected sites will be subject to higher enforcement penalties [see TCEQ publication RG-253, Penalty Policy Adobe Acrobat PDF Document ].
  • Neither the customer nor the affected site will be eligible to participate in innovative TCEQ programs, such as the Regulatory Flexibility Program.

When are updated compliance histories used?

Compliance history reports are updated whenever any of the following events occurs:

  • We receive that customer’s application for a new permit.
  • We receive that customer’s application to renew or change an existing permit.
  • We receive that customer’s application to participate in one of our innovative programs.
  • We begin a formal enforcement action against that customer.
  • In some cases, when an action triggered by one of the events mentioned above is completed—for example, when a new permit is issued.

In making these major decisions, we use the current classification—that is, the one developed September 1—along with the compliance history for the five years immediately preceding the event.

What’s an announced investigation?

An “announced investigation” is a routine field investigation in which our environmental investigator will call the customer before the investigation to coordinate. This advance notice makes the process more efficient for both the customer and TCEQ staff. For example:

  • If a specific representative of the customer must be present during the investigation, the investigation can be scheduled to ensure that person is available.
  • Most investigations involve a review of records kept on file. With advance notice, the customer can make sure the records are readily available for the inspector at the time of the investigation.

Note: In this context, “permit” includes licenses, certificates, registrations, approvals, permits by rule, standard permits, and other forms of authorization. (Elsewhere, “permit” has a narrower meaning.)