Rep. Erin Zwiener

Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) has filed legislation mandating stricter enforcement of air and water permits and significantly increasing administrative and civil penalties for emissions events and excess emission. HB 1820 requires TCEQ to adopt rules providing permit conditions that establish a (1) maximum number of emissions events that may occur in a year before the commission will temporarily revoke the facility’s permit or take other enforcement action; and (2) maximum volume of emissions events, expressed in terms of a percentage of permitted emissions, that may occur in a year before the commission will temporarily revoke the facility’s permit or take other enforcement action. The bill further:

—mandates TCEQ to enforce rules concerning emissions events by civil or administrative penalties or by injunctive relief as provided by Chapter 7, Water Code;

—prohibits TCEQ from exempting excess emissions from penalties or injunctive relief.Directs TCEQ to develop and implement policies to limit the cumulative effect of emissions from maintenance, startups, and shutdowns of facilities;

—provides that the fact that a facility does not exceed a threshold established by TCEQ may not be considered as evidence of good faith or a lack of effect on environmental or public health;

—imposes an additional mandatory penalty for an emissions event of not less than $1 per pound of each pollutant released that exceeds the authorized emission limit or is not authorized by any permit, permit by rule, or regulation;

—requires the state emergency response commission to develop a toxic chemical emergency alert system;

—requires a responsible state agency that determines that a release will substantially endanger human health or the environment, not later than 30 minutes after making the determination, to notify persons in the area of the release using the toxic chemical emergency alert system;

—provides for treble penalties if a first responder is injured as a result of exposure to hazardous material while responding to an incident at the facility subject to the penalties;

—raises the maximum cumulative daily penalty from $25,000 to $50,000;

—authorizes the TCEQ to increase the maximum penalty if the violator has a history of previous violations;

—directs TCEQ to annually adjust penalty amounts for inflation;

—increases the minimum and maximum amounts of the civil penalty for continuing violations from $100 to $200 and from $25,000 to $50,000 for each subsequent day;

—requires TCEQ, after notice and hearing, to revoke, suspend, or revoke and reissue a permit or exemption if a violation of a term or condition of the permit causes a catastrophic event resulting in the death or serious injury of an individual.

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