fb tracking

Bill Passed by TX House Tells ‘Reluctant’ TCEQ It Can Be Indifferent

Already passed by the Senate, SB 471 gets preliminary House approval

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas House of Representatives late Monday night gave preliminary approval to Senate Bill 471, a much-criticized piece of legislation allowing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to ignore community complaints against polluters.

The legislation authored by Republican state Sen. Drew Springer lets the TCEQ dismiss some complaints without conducting an investigation.

“The TCEQ already has a reputation for not doing enough to protect the most vulnerable from dangerous chemicals and polluters, and now lawmakers want to tell the agency it is free to do less?” said Adrian Shelley, Texas director of Public Citizen. “Even TCEQ staff members, to their credit, have told lawmakers they have the resources to investigate all complaints. Why was this even considered?

“The TCEQ was called a ‘reluctant regulator’ in a state report last year, a criticism shared by fenceline communities. If people living near a chemical plant or refinery repeatedly complain to the TCEQ, it’s because they believe their health or safety is at risk. That is the reality of life in some communities. If lawmakers want the TCEQ to shed its ‘reluctant’ label, they should welcome engaged residents willing to report violations. SB 471 instead tells residents to go away.”

A study of TCEQ complaints showed that an investigation based on a complaint is two to four times more likely to uncover a violation of the law.

The bill allows the TCEQ to ignore complaints it determines can be addressed by another agency action. The bill also lets the agency set aside, for seven years, complaints from individuals who filed five complaints that were not substantiated.

If SB 471 clears a procedural vote in the House on Tuesday, it will head to Gov. Greg Abbott so he can sign it into law.