Every 12 years, state agencies come up for sunset review, a process that determines if a state agency lives, dies or is reformed to better serve the public and taxpayers.
Ten years ago, the agency then-known as the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, survived a significant overhaul and review as part of the Legislature’s renewal of the agency back in 1999.
Many of the same criticisms of the predecessor to today’s Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) resurfaced in the much-anticipated initial report released yesterday by the Texas Sunset Commission. You can read the full report online here.
Sunset Commission staff found that the TCEQ performed “reasonably well,” but it did make a series of recommendations aimed at strengthening the state’s environmental agency, including increasing the caps on penalties for some polluters.
Perhaps the area of TCEQ that needs the most substantial reform is a topic that the Sunset Commission outright refused to address: Texas’ air permitting program. Citing pending lawsuits and looming implementation of Environmental Protection Agency rules, Sunset staff concluded, the controversy surrounding Texas air permitting program were “high-level political and policy issues that do not easily lend themselves to objective staff-level analysis or solution.” In other words, Sunset punted on an issue that has profound impact on our state’s air quality and public health.
On the whole, however, Texas League of Conservation Voters is pleased that the Sunset Commission staff recommends improvements in the agency’s enforcement, transparency, compliance history and public participation. We’ll watch how these recommendations play out in the weeks and months ahead as the agency’s sunset review progresses.