HOUSE BILL 1714 THREATENS PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY
AS WEST EXPLOSION DEMONSTRATES, MORE – NOT LESS – PUBLIC DISCLOSURE
IS CRITICALLY NEEDED IN TEXAS
AUSTIN, TX—Tomorrow, the Texas House will consider House Bill 1714, a measure that would dramatically reduce the public’s access to information about a company’s environmental compliance record. The Texas League of Conservation Voters is voicing strong opposition to Rep. Wayne Smith’s bill, calling it “a huge step in the wrong direction for Texans concerned about public safety and health.”
“After the tragic events in West, Texas, where 14 first responders perished, a nursing home, three schools and many homes were destroyed, one would hope that Texas lawmakers would be working hard to find ways to protect public health and safety from environmental hazards,” said David Weinberg, Executive Director of the Texas League of Conservation Voters, “Instead, House Bill 1714 would actually reduce or eliminate the public’s access to critical information that can make Texas communities safer.”
House Bill 1714 ends a program at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to inform the public about the environmental compliance records of companies doing business in Texas.
“Over the past decade, TCEQ has provided compliance history information that is used to generate a score for each regulated facility in the state based on the number of violations and severity of those violations,” said Weinberg. “The compliance history is a public report card on regulated companies that, as the disaster in West underscores, is needed now, more than ever.”
The compliance history factors into TCEQ decisions regarding the issuance, renewal, amendment, modification, denial, suspension or revocation of permits, as well as enforcement actions, announced inspections and participation in innovative or voluntary environmental programs.
The bill would also end or limit public hearings on certain permit applications. The TCEQ at a regular meeting could approve an application to renew or amend a permit relating to the discharge of waste or pollutants into or adjacent to water in Texas. The bill would also restrict the evidence of a final determination of noncompliance with federal statutes or statutes of any state concerning solid waste management by an applicant for a solid waste management facility permit that may be offered by a party at a hearing concerning an application.
“Frankly, there’s just no good and justifiable reason to support HB 1714, unless you’re a regulated company looking to hide a poor environmental or safety record from public view,” said Weinberg. “The Texas League of Conservation Voters strongly opposes Rep. Smith’s efforts to roll back common-sense public health and safety measures, along with limiting access to public information.”
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The Texas League of Conservation Voters works to preserve and enhance the quality of life of Texans by making conservation a top priority with Texas elected officials, political candidates and voters. Find us online at http://www.tlcv.org and follow us on Twitter @tlcv.