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Looking ahead to the new year

Dec. 27, 2018 – Agency's recommendations to lawmakers seek to make doing business with the TCEQ easier and faster

Texas capitol.

Every good organization looks for ways to become more efficient and productive and the TCEQ is no exception.

For the upcoming legislative session, the TCEQ identified the following five recommendations to legislators that will help the agency expedite air permits, solidify the TCEQ’s enforcement authority, give the executive director authority to approve uncontested district matters, and establish more effective ways of informing and communicating with interested parties about hearings for proposed air quality rules.

Expedite processing of permit applications

This recommendation focuses on expanding how the agency may use expedited application surcharge funds. If approved, the recommendation allows the agency to use the existing permitting surcharge to pay the salary of full-time employees who work solely on expedited air applications. The revisions would help meet the increased demand for rapid turn-around of air applications, which have increased by an average of 125 each fiscal year since the program began in November 2014. There has also been a 30 percent increase in the number of major new source review projects that are expedited in the same time period. For FY2019, the agency estimates 700 expedited applications will be received.

Replace the newspaper publication requirement with web-based notice of hearing for proposed air quality rules

Newspaper and tablet.

This recommendation seeks to require that notice of hearings for proposed air quality rules be posted on the TCEQ’s website and that other means of notification—such as electronic transmission, social media, and newspapers—may be used if needed. The elimination of the “newspaper only” publication requirement would increase efficiency in communicating notice of these hearings and reduce expense associated with the rulemaking process.

Explicit waiver of governmental and sovereign immunity for state governmental subdivisions

This recommendation proposes to add provisions to the Texas Water Code and Texas Health and Safety Code that reinforce and solidify the TCEQ’s enforcement authority to carry out its mission of protecting public health and the state’s natural resources. The suggested provisions would ensure that political subdivisions of the state—such as counties, municipalities, water districts, and school districts—could not invoke immunity from lawsuit or penalties imposed by the TCEQ and would protect the enforcement authority delegated to the TCEQ by the EPA.

Executive director approval of uncontested district matters

Gavel and water.

This recommendation requests amendment of the Water Code Chapters 49 and 54 to allow the TCEQ’s executive director to approve uncontested water district dissolutions and district conversions without the need to hold a hearing. If there are no contested cases, the executive director could approve them and avoid having to send them to the Commissioners’ Agenda meeting for approval. This process would reduce the amount of time needed by districts and landowners to receive TCEQ approval for a district conversion or dissolution and reduce the expense associated with having to appear before the commissioners in Austin.

Notice and hearing exemption for certain water rights amendments—new Texas Water Code Subsection 11.122(b-1)

Water.

Adoption of this proposal would streamline the permitting process by eliminating notice and the possibility of a contested case hearing for certain applications that have no impact on the environment or senior water rights. This would mean no notice, technical review or hearing for simple applications. This change would help decrease the amount of time it takes to complete an amended water rights application.

“Our goal is to continue to make things easier and more efficient and at the same time be more responsive to reinforcing the enforcement authority delegated to the TCEQ, so that we may be better able to protect public health and the state’s natural resources,” stated Ryan Vise, director of the TCEQ’s Communications and Intergovernmental Relations Division.

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Texas capitol © benkrut iStock Collection/Getty Images. Newspaper and tablet © seb_ra iStock Collection/Getty Images. Clouds on tablet © Ryan McVay Thinkstock Collection/Getty Images. Gavel © Zoinierek iStock Collection/Getty Images. Water © Irina_Barcari iStock Collection/Getty Images. River © dhughes9 iStock Collection/Getty Images.