HB 1865 and SB 709 Preserve Public Participation and Address Uncertainty in Permitting Process
AUSTIN – Several members of a broad coalition of economic development and business groups testified today in support of proposed reforms to the state’s contested case process that will enhance Texas’ economic competitiveness through predictability, while preserving public participation in the permitting process at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, according to the Texas Association of Manufacturers, a member of the coalition. House Bill 1865 by Chairman Geanie Morrison and Senate Bill 709 by Chairman Troy Fraser were heard in committee today.
“Texas is at a distinct disadvantage when competing for major energy and manufacturing investments because a permitting process that takes six months in other states can take up to two years in Texas,” said Tony Bennett, president of the Texas Association of Manufacturers. “HB 1865 and SB 709 will boost Texas’ competitiveness while preserving public participation in the permitting process.”
During testimony today, Richard Mason with Shintech Incorporated said that the company, which produces PVC resin, recently decided to build a facility “in Louisiana for a number of reasons, but one of the paramount reasons was the efficiency and certainty of the Louisiana environmental permitting process.” Mason continued, “We were advised that if a contested case hearing was requested on our permit application, it could take up to two years to get the necessary permits, but even that was a guess since there are no deadlines in the Texas statutes for a contested case hearing process.”
Mason testified that his company supports this legislation because “it provides the certainty around the Texas environmental permitting process that would enable us to continue growing and expanding in Texas.”
HB 1865 and SB 709 do not abolish, repeal, or otherwise eliminate the contested case process. The bill preserves the current public participation opportunities available in the environmental permitting process at TCEQ. The proposed reforms also codify recent Texas court decisions that affirm the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) discretion to determine who is an affected party in a contested case.
Chairman Fraser and Chairman Morrison’s legislation establishes that the starting place for a contested case hearing is a presumption that a draft permit issued by TCEQ meets all legal and technical requirements and is protective of public health and the environment. TCEQ is legally obligated to thoroughly review permit applications and only issue a draft permit that meet this standard.
“Chairman Fraser and Chairman Morrison are working to bring the Texas permitting process closer in line with competing states,” said Bennett. “We should work to level the playing field for Texas to attract major investments and jobs. These contested case reforms keep Texas competitive while protecting public health and the environment. That’s a balance every Texan can support.”
Leaders from a broad coalition of business and industry organizations, including theTexas Association of Business, the Texas Association of Manufacturers, the Texas Oil and Gas Association, the Texas Chemical Council, the Texas Pipeline Association, theTexas Economic Development Council, the Association of Electric Companies of Texas and the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners (TIPRO) have lauded the proposed reforms as vital to the state’s economic interests and Texas’ ability to attract new business investment and commercial expansion.