AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will no longer have the authority to limit greenhouse gas emissions under a proposal the Texas House of Representatives passed on Thursday.
Lawmakers voted on a new provision that would instead require the agency better known as TCEQ to issue greenhouse gas emission permits under federal regulations. The federal Environmental Protection Agency currently has that responsibility in Texas.
Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown said the EPA currently has a backlog of permit requests in Washington and the bill would help Texas industries. The measure would also remove the right of citizens to contest permits granted by TCEQ through an administrative hearings process.
"The EPA and TCEQ have been in conversation, they agree the permitting process should come to Texas, so this is an agreed-to thing," Smith said. "If the EPA is forced to stop regulating greenhouse gases, the TCEQ will too."
Environmentalists, though, oppose the bill because they say it could lead to more climate changing pollution. They also complain the bill would take away the public's right to challenge permits issued by TCEQ.
Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, tried to restore language that would have allowed TCEQ to regulate greenhouse gases, but his amendment was defeated by the Republican majority.
"I think we put ourselves at a tremendous disadvantage if we don't give TCEQ the option of dealing with issue," Turner said.
Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, read from the opposition section of an analysis written by the House Research Organization pointing out the dangers of eliminating the contested hearing process.
"Contested case hearings ensure adequate public notice, a public opportunity to review the draft permit, and the right to seek redress in Texas instead of at the federal level," Burnam said.
The House approved the bill without changes 119-23. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 788: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=83R&Bill=HB788