Environmental Quality and Energy

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, protection of competitive opportunities and advantages for Texas businesses and a proper understanding of both the costs and benefits of environmental regulations.

For the 85th Legislature, TAB will be specifically addressing the issues related to the challenges of meeting more stringent federal air quality standards and funding for the state agencies whose permitting actions and other approvals are necessary to infrastructure investment and job growth. TAB supports the following measures:

Access to Research. Support legislation to require that research data and analysis 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 or prohibit the adoption of regulations for which supporting data are not publicly available.

Ambient Environmental Standards. Support the development of ambient air quality or other standards that 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. Support the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) need for funding where monitors are necessary to characterize ambient air quality and to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent attempts to designate areas as nonattainment based on modeling, not actual air quality.

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.
  • Support efforts to ensure that the TCEQ adopt flexible, aggressive plans for the approval of emission reduction credits to ensure the maximum degree of economic growth and business development in air quality nonattainment areas.

Contested Case Hearings on Environmental Permits. Monitor recent reforms to the contested case hearings process for environmental permits and continue to support any further improvements 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. Further, oppose any legislation that would repeal or weaken recent reforms to the process or expand the scope of current provisions related to 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.
  • Support any changes in law that will simplify, consolidate or otherwise streamline the process of assessing regulatory costs and benefits without compromising the ability of an agency to produce a comprehensive and accurate assessment.
  • 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.

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.

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.

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.

Local Enforcement. Oppose any efforts to weaken or repeal the provisions of HB 1794 (84th Legislature) related to penalties recovered through local enforcement authorized under state law. Support legislation that will ensure that either enforcement of state law will be undertaken by state agencies or that local governments initiating enforcement under state law will be required to adhere to the same enforcement policies and criteria that are applicable to state agencies.

Preemption of Local Environmental Regulation. Oppose any efforts to establish or expand by statute the authority of a local government to promulgate environmental regulatory programs that would preempt uniform, statewide regulation by TCEQ or other state regulatory agencies or be inconsistent with existing state regulatory programs.

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 use of products solely for 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.

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.

Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP). Support legislation that will make the funds available to aid compliance with enforceable federal ozone air quality standards in all nonattainment areas of Texas and ensure that any authorized use of TERP funds must result in emission reductions that contribute to attainment efforts and are competitive in terms of costs versus benefits.

ENERGY

TAB’s priorities for energy regulation will continue to focus on the use of valid scientific and technical evidence in evaluating the impacts of new laws and regulations affecting our energy economy. A primary goal of our efforts will be to ensure that energy costs remain affordable and that Texas businesses can hope to make capital investments and grow jobs as a result of reasonable energy prices.

For the 85th Legislature, TAB will be specifically addressing the issues related to the federal imposition of the Clean Power Plan and similar regulations to increase federal control of the state’s electric industry, impede our oil and gas economy and increasingly use the Endangered Species Act to negatively affect business expansion and property use in Texas. We will also work to ensure a reauthorization of the Texas Railroad Commission through the Sunset process that is consistent with our priorities. TAB supports the following measures:

Electricity Costs. To ensure that Texas continues to grow and that businesses can continue to expand and attract new investments, the state must consider the overall, delivered cost of electricity and the establishment of regulatory policies that allow for appropriate capital investment in Texas’ electric infrastructure. Electricity costs and a reliable electric grid system are key inputs to the success of Texas businesses.

  • Continue the promotion of competitive electric markets in all areas of the state to spur fair competition in the best interest of all consumers, energy producers and businesses.
  • Promote a balanced approach to cost efficient expansion of the electric grid system by regulated utilities to improve and expand the system in order to maintain reliable service.
  • Implement new technologies that are market-ready to encourage energy efficiency and to meet the state’s growing energy needs.
  • Allow for appropriate expansion and mitigation of transmission congestion without unduly burdening the existing customer base.
  • Create incentives for the development of generation capacity in places that minimize the overall cost to produce and deliver the electricity.
  • Oppose policies that work to increase electricity costs without a corresponding benefit or that favor one technology or group of customers over others through manipulation of markets.

Energy and Economic Development.

  • Support healthy economic growth in Texas by promoting the production of adequate supplies of all forms of energy at competitive prices.
  • Oppose increased taxes and fees on energy sources with the exception of fees that will be dedicated to regulatory programs that will improve the oversight and approval of energy development projects.
  • Eliminate tax inequities between energy sources.
  • Discourage the use of subsidies that distort market economics.
  • Encourage the conservation of resources.
  • Balance environmental quality objectives against the actual impacts of energy production and usage and the public welfare benefits of lower energy costs.

Federal Climate Change Regulations. Oppose any efforts to establish in Texas statute regulatory mechanisms that are intended to achieve compliance with the federal “Clean Power Plan” or similar U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) climate change regulations until all legal challenges to such regulations have been exhausted and Texas has agreed that development of a compliance plan is in the state’s interest. Support efforts to encourage voluntary, free-market solutions to energy conservation and demand response that save businesses money, maximize investment in energy infrastructure and promote competitive economic development in Texas.

Federal Mandates that Impede Texas Energy Businesses. Texas is the leading energy producing state by a large margin and fuels much of the energy needs of the nation, providing energy security and innovating key advances in energy technology. While numerous federal mandates that threaten to undermine Texas’ energy industries are appropriately identified in TAB’s national policy agenda, TAB supports state policies, wherever feasible, that counter any such damaging federal mandates or regulations that interfere with state authority over its energy industry, such as:

  • Prohibitions on crude oil or LNG exports;
  • Closing off access to federal or state lands for energy exploration or production;
  • Unnecessary environmental rules targeting energy extraction and production; or
  • Misguided federal tax policies that distort competitive electric markets by subsidizing intermittent renewable energy to the detriment of more reliable forms of generation.

Fuels Diversity. Oppose legislative efforts that would require the use of specific fuels for industrial sources for the purpose of forcing technology. Support the 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.

Oil and Gas Regulation. Support efforts to maintain the contested case process and staffing of hearings examiners within the Texas Railroad Commission. Also, support maintaining the current Texas Railroad Commission bonding structure for oil and gas operators, and oppose increased or expanded bonding requirements. Support an enforcement program that ensures regulatory compliance, and oppose efforts to assess penalties, fines or other sanctions for minor violations without affording due process to any operator or respondent.

Preemption of Local Oil and Gas Regulation. Oppose any efforts to establish or expand by statute the authority of a local government to promulgate regulations related to oil, natural gas or other mineral resource exploration or development activities that would preempt uniform, statewide regulation by the Texas Railroad Commission or other state regulatory agencies or be inconsistent with existing state regulatory programs.