Welcome Colleagues

If you weren’t able to join the joint meeting yesterday hosted by the Gulf Coast chapter of the American Waste Management Association (AWMA) and Texas Association of Environmental Professionals (TAEP), you missed an interesting presentation by Mr. Brian Christian, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Director of Environmental Assistance Division.  The key regulatory updates from TCEQ for July 2017 include:

  1. Reduced budget for pass-through air-quality protection grants:
    Mr. Christian reports that the TCEQ’s budget has been reduced for 2018-2019 year by approximately $140 million with the largest reductions coming in the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) and the Low Income Repair Assistance, Retrofit, and Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Program.  It’s unclear at this time if these reductions will result in reduced funding to grantees or if Texas will maintain the funding rate from revenues previously collected.  However, the Legislature did increase the sunset dates of these programs to allow them to continue until attainment is reached.
  2. Increased or untouched budgets for operational and permitting programs:
    Mr. Christian stated that the budget cuts didn’t really touch the operational or permitting functions of TCEQ and that it was expected that these functions would continue to operate as usual.  There were even budgetary increases for programs and functions involving water quality and public drinking water systems.
  3. Water Programs and Functions:
    1. Total Coliform Rule: adopted in March, it is now undergoing the initial stages of roll-out and implementation.
    2. Water Program and Function Funding: based on the study of Fund 153 (https://www.tceq.texas.gov/assets/public/agency/water-study-support-info.pdf), water programs and functions were provided with increased and new sources of funding.
    3. Waters of the US (WOTUS): the State is monitoring the proposal to rescind the 2015 WOTUS rule and studying what actions will be necessary from the agency following the rescinding of the rule.
  4. Air Programs and Functions:
    1. Particulate Matter (PM): Christian expects that EPAs next review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Particulate Matter (PM) will occur in the winter of this year, if not sooner. There is concern that if the standards are lowered that the Houston area may be “kicked into” non-attainment status.  If they are lowered more significantly, the Austin area may also become a non-attainment area.  TCEQ is monitoring the progress of the review and planning for any changes that might be necessary.  Text of the legislation can be found at https://legiscan.com/TX/text/SB1045/2017.
    2. Area & Mobile Source Credit Generation, Emissions Banking and Trading (EBT): Interest continues in the proposed EBT rules (March 2017).  The rule is scheduled to go before the Commission in late August for final adoption.  The final rule is expected to be largely similar to the proposed rule.  Implementation is expected for September and Mr. Christian notes that the infrastructure is already set up to start accepting applications as soon as the rule is finalized.
    3. Notice Consolidation for Certain Air Quality Permits: SB1045 was passed by the 85th Legislature and signed into law by the Governor and allows certain Texas air quality permit applicants to consolidate the 1st and 2nd public notices. While not anticipated to be applicable to complex permits, applicants with less complex permit conditions are expected to benefit from the more streamlined permitting approach.  The TCEQ also expects that the consolidation will allow the public to be better informed in the case that they desire to submit comment to the application. Text for SB 1045 may be found at http://www.legis.state.tx.us/billlookup/text.aspx?LegSess=80R&Bill=SB1045 .
  5. Waste & Recycling Programs and Functions:
    1. The EPA’s final Hazardous Waste Generator Rule: The TCEQ is assessing what changes in state functions are necessary following the update to the EPA’s Hazardous Waste Generator Rule (November, 2016; https://www.epa.gov/hwgenerators/final-rule-hazardous-waste-generator-improvements) .  The State is required to update rules and adopt any changes by July 1, 2018.
    2. Petroleum Storage Tank Rules: TCEQ is still working on their rule revisions in response to EPA’s revised Underground Storage Tank regulations (https://www.epa.gov/ust/revising-underground-storage-tank-regulations-revisions-existing-requirements-and-new).  Changes are scheduled to go to the Commission on September 20th and are expected to be approved in March 2019.
    3. Recycling Study: The TCEQ has been charged with studying the economic impacts of recycling in the state of Texas.  The results of the study are expected to be out in October.  Based on the results, new legislation may be introduced in the next legislative session.   More information on the study may be found at https://www.tceq.texas.gov/p2/recycle/study-on-the-economic-impacts-of-recycling
    4. Tire Bill: A bill aimed at increased regulation of tire re-use passed the legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Abbot.  Based on the legislative interest, another bill may be proposed in the next legislative session.
  6. TCEQ Calendar Events:
    1. Public Drinking Water Conference: August 8 – 9, Austin, Texas
    2. Pollution Prevention and Waste Management Workshop: September 20, Austin, Texas
    3. Autumn Environmental Conference and Expo: October 10 – 12, Austin, Texas
      This conference combines the Advanced Air Permitting Seminar and Water Quality / Stormwater Seminar.
    4. Environmental Trade Fair and Conference: May 16 – 17, 2018, Austin, Texas.

Many thanks to Mr. Christian for traveling to Houston to update us on the recent changes.  If you are an environmental professional in the greater Houston area, please consider joining either, or both, the Gulf Coast Chapter of the AWMA or TAEP for our monthly informative meetings.

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