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Rights of the Public at Risk

March 21, 2005

Rights of the Public at Risk

Statement of Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

Public Citizen opposes the restriction of public participation rights as proposed in House Bill 2758, which is set for a public hearing tomorrow in the House Environmental Regulation Committee.

HB 2758 is another attempt to limit the public’s right to participate in environmental permitting decisions at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). If passed, HB 2758 would drastically expand the authority of the TCEQ commissioners to make permit decisions without affording affected landowners the right to request public hearings. 

This legislation limits those who may obtain party status in contested case hearings and greatly restricts the issues that concerned citizens can raise. If a contested case hearing is granted to an affected landowner, state and national conservation groups, neighborhood associations and other entities often become parties to protect the rights of their members. This bill will eliminate their opportunity to do so.

HB 2758 eliminates rights of the public to participate in decisions that affect the air they breathe and the water they drink. Citizens should contact members of the House Environmental Regulation Committee and tell them to oppose HB 2758 at tomorrow’s public hearing. The government should not take away citizens’ rights to protect their health and property.