President Trump’s regulations rollback agenda has apparently made its way to Texas. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recently announced an EPA-hosted webinar stakeholder meeting scheduled for April 20. The meeting was hosted by the EPA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization and intended to allow concerned parties from industry and small business to submit environmental regulations they believe should be “repealed, replaced or modified, consistent with applicable law” (i.e., this last point is in accordance with the anti-capricious standard mentioned before).
Some of the more common applicable regulations impacting industry, including Texas manufacturers, include Storm Water Permits/Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans, Spill Prevention Control & Countermeasure (SPCC), Air Emission Authorizations such as PBRs/Title V Air Permits/NSR Permits, Hazardous Waste Management Regulations, and Hazardous Materials reporting such as TRI and Tier II.
(I subscribe to a weekly TCEQ update email and found the meeting notification buried among a long list of other topics, with no particular highlight or attention-grabbing headline. For whatever reason, it doesn’t seem like TCEQ is going out of their way to promote the agenda nor the meeting. If so, I would have expected TCEQ to have sent out a special notification.)
I registered and attended the event. Below is the list of stakeholders and the regulations they chose to discuss.
1.) Clean Power Plan – Ned Hutchinson
2.) Beneficial Use of Sewage Sludge – Chad Sledge
3.) Water Systems Regulations in Texas- Bruce Motheral
4.) NESHAP Autobody Rule – Tony Pendola
5.) NSPS JJJ Drycleaning Rules – Tony Pendola
6.) Overlap/redundancy between the EPA Title V Permit and the TCEQ NSR Permit- Laura Rectenwald
7.) NPDES/ 40 CFR 63 Limitations- Laura Rectenwald
8.) Steel Tanks/Convenience Stores – Jack Burgess
9.) National Ambient Air Quality Standards- Stephen Pavel
10.) Water Regulations – Nick Russo
11.) Role of Clean Water, Air, and Stable Climate – Eric S. Miller
Here are my notes and impressions from the meeting:
Each speaker was given 5 minutes to present their case and discuss their concerns. The meeting was scheduled to go for 3 hours, but only lasted about 1.5 hours.
Recall that the purpose of the meeting was to allow presenters to submit environmental regulations they believe should be “repealed, replaced or modified, consistent with applicable law.” All of the speakers were from Texas, were very well informed, and most were EHS professionals — either consultants, company or government staff experts, or environmental advocates. It was interesting to note that in contrast to President Trump’s harsh anti-regulation rhetoric, all of the speakers chose to either focus on requesting slight modifications to existing environmental regulations (as opposed to repealing or replacing them) or advocated heavily in favor of environmental regulations and enforcement. I had really expected some of the speakers to rail against certain regulations and demand their elimination, but that never happened.
The discussions were very technical and dug deep into the weeds of their chosen regulation. For example, one speaker discussing storm water regulations requested that the quarterly SWPPP inspection requirements be eliminated for companies with less than X number of acres. Another speaker bickered about the overlap between Title V and New Source Review air permits and how this redundancy creates added and unnecessary costs for affected companies.
Another speaker discussed the coatings industry and applicable air regulations. She requested modification to certain reporting requirements and spoke in detail about the new ozone reduction standard that she believes will harm the industry, create unnecessary costs and reduce growth opportunities. She requested that EPA revert back to the 2008 standard rather than enforcing the new reductions and give more time for review of such regulations before they’re implemented.
Other speakers chose to advocate in favor of environmental regulation and enforcement and discussed the costs of failing to do so. A couple of speakers discussed how failure to enforce existing air and water regulations could result in serious health hazards for affected residents, such as lead poisoning and premature births. Another speaker talked about how a company who chooses to ignore environmental regulations, and pollutes a river with hazardous waste rather than pay for proper disposal, for example, essentially ends up passing that cost to the local community and residents who ultimately have to pay for the cleanup, while at the same time losing the benefits from the polluted river. He referenced an article from the ’50s published in Science Magazine called “The Tragedy of The Commons,” which is “an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action.” I’d never heard of the article, but it’s a powerful argument in favor of environmental regulation and how following and enforcing these regulations benefits everyone.
In summary, the meeting was originally intended to give stakeholders the opportunity to protest and push back against environmental regulations, but that never really happened. I had expected that anti-regulation groups or their members would attend the meeting to voice their opposition to environmental regulations and push their agenda, but none of those stakeholders chose to attend. That was surprising for me, especially in a state like Texas! Maybe it’s because EPA and TCEQ chose not to heavily promote the event (so these stakeholders were unaware of the opportunity), or maybe it’s because there’s more support for these regulations than the Trump administration believes? In any case, if similar stakeholder meetings in other states go like this one, it might make it a lot tougher for the Trump administration to push this agenda through. I had hoped for the meeting organizer to talk about where the process goes from here, but she didn’t, other than to say that she “looks forward to continuing the dialogue.” Only time will tell, but I promise to monitor the situation closely and post updates here as necessary.
Thanks for reading.
Russell Carr is the President of Berg Compliance Solutions, LLC. The Austin consulting company (www.bes-corp.com) specializes in helping small companies manage environmental, health and safety regulatory compliance.