Consistent with past sessions, TAB's priorities for environmental quality regulation continue to focus on the use of sound scientific evidence in decision – making, reasonable and achievable goals for pollution reduction based on technical merit, protecting competitive opportunities and advantages for Texas businesses and a proper understanding of both the costs and benefits of environmental regulations. For the 84th legislature, TAB will specifically be addressing the issues related to the contribution of foreign sources to background pollutant levels in Texas, the role of contested case hearing's in creating competitive disadvantage is for environmental permit applications and the increasing use of the Endangered Species Act to negatively affect business expansion and property use in Texas. TAB supports the following measures:
Access to research. Support legislation to require that research relied upon as the basis for proposed regulations by state and federal environmental agencies be made available for review by the regulated community before a regulation can be adopted.
Ambient environmental standards. Support the development of ambient air quality or other standards which are based on sound scientific evidence that is comprehensively peer reviewed, technically feasible and economically practical. Oppose the imposition of any enforceable ambient standard that is based on conservative screening levels for pollutants, rather than demonstrated health risks.
Clean air attainment. Support efforts to achieve attainment of national ambient air quality standards that help near non-attainment areas stay in attainment, ensure that the responsibility for emission reductions is shared equitably among all emission sources, and provide sources of emissions the maximum flexibility in obtaining permit authorizations in order efficiently achieve reductions. Support efforts by the Legislature to establish the authority of the TCEQ to acknowledge the contribution of foreign sources of air pollution, incorporate foreign contributions into Texas’ air quality implementation plans and petition the EPA for approval of such plans.
Contested case hearings. Support reforms to the contested case hearings process for environmental permits that will prevent abuse of the process, ensure fairness, reduce timeframes wherever practical and allow Texas to remain economically competitive for new capital investment and job growth opportunities. Oppose any legislation that would expand the scope of current standing or opportunity to contest a permit as a designated party.
Cost of federal and state regulations. Support Texas law that requires state environmental agencies to estimate the cost and net benefits to regulated entities before adopting any major proposed rule, and oppose legislation that places additional requirements on business and industry without a firm technical basis or appreciable benefit to the environment.
Cumulative effects. Oppose efforts to condition approval of permits on a review of all cumulative effects of other emissions that precludes the opportunities for economic growth, places the burden of attainment on new facilities and decreases incentives for demonstration of new control technology.
Emission limits. Oppose arbitrary emission limits established in statute that do not provide flexibility for site-specific conditions and future development of best practices or best control technology standards.
Environmental audits. Support Texas law that encourages environmental compliance by allowing the use of a self-evaluation privilege that protects a company’s voluntary environmental and health and safety audits from being used in legal actions against the company under certain conditions.
Environmental justice. Support the granting or renewal of permits on environmental and health-based standards and oppose permit programs that favor any community strictly because of its racial or economic demographics.
Environmental regulatory structure. Support an environmental regulatory structure that bases state law on the enactment of federal environmental laws and regulations so that consistency is maintained, regulation occurs at the state level and the maximum flexibility is afforded to Texas businesses as long as equivalent environmental protection is achieved. Support efforts to require that local governments operating under enforcement authority granted by the Legislature operate under the same policies and criteria utilized by state agencies operating under the same authority. Oppose expanding the environmental authority of local governmental entities, particularly where such authority is duplicative or inconsistent with state regulation.
Environmental Standards. Support reasonable incentives for the development and demonstration of new energy or pollution reduction technologies that do not distort the market place. Oppose mandates for specific technology or environmental controls that are not cost effective or which can be implemented only if new technology is developed.
Endangered species conservation plans. Support efforts by business and industrial interests to enter into endangered species conservation plans that will meet the requirements of federal and state agencies and allow continued use and development of private property by businesses. Support continued efforts by the Legislature and appropriate state agencies, consistent with TAB priorities, to coordinate to ensure that endangered species regulatory decisions are based on valid scientific evidence and an accurate and comprehensive assessment of all economic impacts and that the interests of Texas property owners, taxpayers and businesses are represented before federal decision makers.
Fuels diversity. Oppose legislative efforts that would require the use of specific fuels for industrial sources for the purpose of forcing technology. Support removal of economic and supply barriers that distort fuel competition and free-market influences. Support legislative efforts to increase the supply of energy using a diverse mixture of fuels including oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear, applied in an environmentally safe manner and coupled with encouragement of conservation and the practical use of renewable energy sources.
Recycling or end-use programs. Support industry-initiated programs for the voluntary recovery or take-back of consumer goods. Oppose mandatory programs that impose costs or prohibit the usage of products solely for the purpose of controlling personal behavior. Oppose mandatory recycling programs that impose enforcement liabilities or penalties for the disposal of materials in properly permitted and operated landfills or other waste management facilities designed to safely receive the materials.
Regulatory fees, taxes and funds. Oppose any new taxes to pay for additional environmental regulatory programs. Oppose the imposition of any new fees to recover the cost of regulatory programs unless the program can be shown to clearly address a critical environmental or public health need. Fees should only be assessed to recover the actual costs imposed on government by the activities of the regulated entities, must reasonably allocate costs between members of a regulated universe and must be adjusted periodically to actually match agency budgets and legislative appropriations.
Fund Balances. Oppose any effort to reduce the budget of a fee-funded regulatory program for the purpose of redirecting the fee revenues to another purpose. Support efforts to reduce unobligated fund balances in regulatory fee funds by reducing fees to match expenditures and eliminate overpayments by affected businesses and industries. Support legislative efforts to more clearly identify the source of funds for regulatory programs and fees that unfairly recover more than the costs of the programs they pay for and to establish accounting systems that segregate appropriate regulatory fees from general revenue funds.
Regulatory responsibility. Support legislation that affirms the rights and powers of the state government and limits intrusion by federal agencies in the state’s implementation of delegated environmental programs.
Streamlining the permit process. Support legislation to streamline the permitting process to ensure that businesses can maintain environmental compliance and at the same time minimize roadblocks that result in expensive procedural delays.