e-Texas e-Texassmaller smarter faster governmentDecember, 2000
Carole Keeton Rylander
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Recommendations of the Texas Comptroller

Chapter 10: Environment and Natural Resources

Environment and

Natural Resources


In Texas, as in many states with large urban populations, air pollution has become a major concern. The state’s soaring population and booming economy have led to air quality concerns in several urban areas. Clean water and continued water availability also are major environmental issues. If our water is unsafe or its supply unreliable, our economy and our health will suffer. To address these and other important issues, government agencies charged with protecting the environment and public health are rethinking traditional strategies.

Texas’ environmental and natural resource problems are complex and often unique, and require a more flexible, results-oriented approach. New approaches should take advantage of private markets to further the public good and reduce costs. Cooperative planning should become the standard for effective protection of the environment.

Use Financial Incentives and Market-Based Tools to Protect
and Improve the Environment

Governments can use a variety of market-based tools to regulate activities. For example, many environmental fees are assessed based on the amount of pollution the permit holder releases into the environment. Market-based environmental innovations help create a climate in which people face the consequences of their actions and receive incentives to be responsible stewards of their land and resources.

The state should encourage the cleanup and redevelopment of “brownfields,” industrial or commercial properties that have been abandoned or underused due to long-term environmental contamination. It can do so by allowing the creation of enterprise zones around brownfield sites that have been cleaned up.

Use Technology to Reduce Compliance Costs While Improving

Environmental Quality

The global economy is undergoing a profound transformation, and Texas government must make sure that its regulatory structures encourage rather than hinder the state’s economic development. Many governments are using the Internet not only to provide environmental information to the public, but also to provide increased flexibility to regulated entities through electronic permitting, reporting and other key services.

Texas state agencies are beginning to redesign their online services to make information more readily available. The state should develop an environmental and natural resources information portal within the statewide portal. The environment and natural resources portal would require the coordination of all the state’s environmental and natural resources agencies and would provide a one-stop center for environmental, natural resource, and regulatory information and services.

The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) should also provide incentives for linking private air quality monitoring systems to those of the TNRCC.

Establish a Results-Based Environmental Protection System

Progress toward the state’s environmental protection and natural resource management goals should be measured by real-world results, not by permits issued or fines collected. Strict regulations should give way to cooperative goal-setting and flexible means of achieving those goals.

Innovative compliance measures, voluntary approaches, and regulatory incentives have proven to be effective tools for improving the environment. Texas should involve industry in environmental protection and encourage companies to go beyond basic compliance. Methods of solving problems include providing easily understandable compliance assistance materials; offering amnesty for inadvertent, minor violations; and allowing the use of self-audits.

Another step the state can take is to use Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) to encourage the use of pollution prevention projects, environmental management systems and brownfield cleanups. Promoting the use of environmental management systems (EMS) and developing performance measures that quantify environmental improvements would move the state further towards a results-based based environment protection system.

Maximize State and Local Decision-Making

State decision-making that seeks local input and uses relevant local information about community priorities and opportunities for environmental improvements often proves to be the most effective. Close-to-home control is particularly important to Texas due to the extreme diversity of its regions, each with its own unique environmental concerns.

Texas also should do what it can to receive flexibility from the federal government. The state should expand its coordination efforts with federal environmental protection activities to increase its flexibility with federal programs delegated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

e-Texas is an initiative of Carole Keeton Rylander, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Post Office Box 13528, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas

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