Folks, we have been focusing on fighting Chisum’s amendments to the TCEQ Sunset Bill. But Chisum has another trick up his sleeve- the amendment is being introduced as a stand-alone bill, HB 3251.
This is the bill that eliminates the opportunity for a contested case hearing on any amendment to an air pollution permit held by an electric generating facility (read: coal-fired power plant) to implement new controls on hazardous air pollutants such as mercury and toxics (hazardous air pollutants or HAPs are covered under Section 112 of the federal Clean Air Act).
The contested case opportunity is replaced with what essentially is a public meeting (called public “hearing” in the bill but this is really more akin to what we know in Texas as a public meeting) and public comment period – basically a meaningless public venting process.
No “affected person” status, no referral of a case to the State Office of Hearing Examiners for a quasi-judicial proceeding before an administrative law judge, no discovery, no cross-examination of witnesses, no burden of proof on the applicant, no leverage to force an applicant to the negotiating table to try to greater reductions in the emissions of hazardous air pollutants than the applicant and TCEQ have already agreed to (not likely to be as protective as what citizen groups would demand).
Call your State Representative! Find them here.
“Hi my name is ____ and I’d like to leave a message for Representative _____. I strongly oppose House Bill 3251. It eliminates the contested case process when industry applies for a permit, which means that the people don’t have any role in the decisionmaking process. Please ask Representative ____ to oppose HB 3251. Thanks.”
Yesterday, the Texas State House of Representatives voted on third reading for House Bill 2694 that, if it passes the Senate, would continue the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. 96 numb Representatives — all but one Republicans, voted for an amendment that Panhandle Rep. Warren Chisum attached to the bill. Chisum’s amendment removes citizen’s rights to contested case hearings by placing the burden of proof on the citizens as opposed to big industry.
Ken Kramer, Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club commented,
The House floor action on the TCEQ sunset bill Wednesday was a historic low point in legislative activity on environmental issues. It represents a failure of the majority of state representatives to protect both public health and the rights of their constituents to a clean environment.
Here’s the record vote on the Chisum Amendment. You can scan this list to see how your legislator voted, and phone your representative to either thank them or ask them to clean up their act.
Dallas Rep. Rafael Anchia made a valiant effort to strip the Chisum amendment from HB 2694 and protect citizens’ rights to a fair, contested case hearing. David Weinberg with the Texas League of Conservation Voters considered the floor debate on the Anchia amendment to be, “some of the most compelling arguments of this Session.”
Here’s the record vote on the Anchia amendment. Again, you can check out how your Legislator voted and give them a call.
Ken concluded —
The TCEQ sunset bill as filed in the House represented a balanced piece of legislation that reflected the recommendations of the Texas Sunset Commission after a thorough and careful review of the state’s major environmental regulatory agency. Key amendments to the bill on the House floor today have undermined that balance and have given polluters the best present they could have asked for to celebrate Earth Day later this week. The most egregious changes in the TCEQ bill were those that undercut or in some cases eliminate the rights of Texans to contest proposed pollution control permits that pose a threat to their communities and their families.
There is hope that the bill as it moves to the Senate will be cleaned up to make it the balanced legislation it started out to be. If the TCEQ sunset bill isn’t cleaned up in the Senate, neither will the state of Texas be cleaned up.
Posted by Donna Hoffman, 04-21-2011