Protecting the Environment
while Encouraging Economic Growth
Texas’ natural beauty makes it a popular place to visit and a great place to live. Texas is rich in nature’s treasures: beaches, mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, and wetlands that provide opportunities for fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, birdwatching, and much more. A healthy natural environment, moreover, supports the state’s economic and business goals. As a recent report by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) states:
The link between a state’s environmental quality and its economic vitality is increasingly apparent, not only to businesses and local governments but to consumers.
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 will be disrupted and our health may suffer. To address these and other important issues, government agencies charged with protecting the environment and public health are rethinking traditional strategies.
In the 1960s, the environmental movement sought federal regulatory action to address its concerns with industry and with state and local inaction. The federal response achieved some successes, but has become inappropriate for many of today’s challenges. The initial wave of federal environmental legislation was based on the “command-and-control” approach, which led to costly regulations that have proven to be a poor solution for the many different environmental problems faced by state and local governments, industry, agriculture, and individuals. Texas’ environmental and natural resource problems are complex and often unique, and require a more flexible, results-oriented approach.
Texas’ Environmental Protection and Natural Resource System
Seventeen state agencies are charged with protecting Texas’ natural resources (see Table 11-1). In fiscal year 2000, these agencies were budgeted to spend about $910 million, or 2 percent of the total state budget. This expenditure is intended to ensure air and water quality and adequate water supplies; manage waste disposal safely; maintain adequate energy sources; operate and safeguard parklands and open spaces; protect biological diversity; and keep the state’s beaches clean and safe.
Environment and Natural Resource Agencies
1.Animal Health Commission
2.Canadian Compact Commission
3.Comptroller of Public Accounts – State Energy Conservation Office
4.Department of Agriculture
5.General Land Office
6.Public Utility Commission
8.Department of Health
9.Energy Coordinating Council
10.Natural Resource Conservation Commission
11.Parks and Wildlife Department
12.Pecos Compact Commission
13.Red River Compact Commission
14.Rio Grande Compact Commission
15.Sabine Compact Commission
16.Soil and Water Conservation Board
17.Water Development Board
For example, TNRCC’s water quality management and restoration program is intended to protect Texas’ waters. Under the federal Clean Water Act and the Texas Water Code, TNRCC operates a wastewater permitting and authorization program to protect water quality, as well as a water quality restoration program. TNRCC’s remediation programs oversee the investigation and cleanup of hazardous pollutants released at contaminated industrial sites, including state and federal “Superfund” sites, as well as waste from underground petroleum storage tanks.
Challenges Facing Texas’ Environment
The Federal Clean Air Act
The federal Clean Air Act directs the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish national standards for common air pollutants that pose threats to public health. Between 1988 and 1997, Texas improved in all but one of six major pollution categories monitored by EPA. Several Texas cities, however, continue to have problems with ozone pollution. The Clean Air Act requires any state with one or more areas that fail to meet federal air quality standards to develop state implementation plans (SIPs) mapping out how the state will bring these areas into compliance with the act.
Texas’ air quality challenges are caused by a combination of pollutants that give rise to ozone problems. In several major metropolitan areas that are out of compliance or approaching noncompliance with federal standards, including Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin, motor vehicles are the single largest contributor to ground-level ozone. In other areas, including Houston-Galveston, Beaumont-Port Arthur, and Longview-Tyler-Marshall, industrial sources are the primary causes.
Scarce Water Resources
Texas’ surface water is a vital resource for drinking supplies, business and farming operations, recreational activities, and the preservation of aquatic life and other wildlife. In Texas, 69 percent of the state’s river and stream mileage is considered suitable for drinking, fishing and swimming, compared to a national average of 55 percent. Of the state’s 1.5 million acres of public lakes, 78 percent are suitable for drinking, fishing and swimming, compared to a national average of 50 percent.
The state’s continuing growth has been accompanied by ever-increasing demands for finite surface and groundwater supplies. Continued water availability will be a significant challenge in the new century, due to the expanding and often competing needs of people, agriculture, industry and wildlife habitat.
Statewide water demands for municipal, industrial and agricultural uses totaled 15.4 million acre-feet in 1997, with about 60 percent coming from groundwater and 40 percent from surface water. By 2050, declining groundwater supplies are expected to reverse this distribution, with 72 percent of our drinking water coming from surface sources. Agriculture (including irrigation and livestock) is the greatest consumer of Texas’ water supplies (60 percent), although new irrigation practices may help to reduce this consumption. Industry (including manufacturing, mining and power) accounts for 15 percent, while municipalities use another 25 percent.
Many water managers are seeking more cost-effective and environmentally sensitive strategies to meet new water demands. Strategies to stretch and expand our water supplies include water conservation, water markets, desalinization and water reuse. TNRCC estimates that by the year 2010, aggressive implementation of water conservation programs and practices throughout the state could reduce municipal water usage by as much as 14 percent.
TNRCC reports that from 1995 through 1997, Texas manufacturers once again led all states in reducing the release and disposal of toxic chemicals reported to the federal Toxics Release Inventory. Texas’ total releases fell by 43 million pounds or 14 percent over that period. Texas also ranked first for long-term reductions from 1988 through 1997, cutting releases and disposal by 143 million pounds, or 44 percent. TNRCC believes this reduction is particularly noteworthy because it coincided with a booming state economy, including a 28 percent jump in manufacturing activity (see Figure 11-1).
The long-term reduction in toxic releases and disposal is being driven by federal Toxics Release Inventory requirements and by the TNRCC’s Clean Industries 2000, a voluntary reduction program whose participating companies accounted for 80 percent of the statewide reduction from 1988 to 1997. With a membership of 185 companies, this program is the largest of its kind in the US. Although great progress is being made, the state can and should continue to improve its pollution reduction and prevention efforts.
Texas constitutes about 7 percent of the nation’s total water and land area, as much as all of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina combined. About 87 percent of Texas land is privately owned. Between 1992 and 1997, urban land cover in Texas increased by 19 percent; even so, only 4 percent of the state’s total area is urban. In 1995, studies showed that 82 percent of the Texas population lived in these urban areas.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers programs that provide grants, expertise and recognition for the conservation of open spaces. The Texas Department of Agriculture provides loan guarantees for the development of agriculture-based nature-tourism business startups or expansions, while the Texas Forest Service offers programs that provide various incentives to protect the state’s forest lands, a majority of which are privately owned. In addition, private initiatives, including both corporate efforts and those by land trust organizations and private land owners, have led to the restoration, set-aside and creation of wildlife habitat and open spaces for recreation.
Many of Texas’ major urban centers have instituted open-space land management techniques to preserve and develop spaces for habitat or recreation. Land owners across Texas have implemented successful land management plans without the intervention of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Many people believe that, as a recent article on the topic put it, “Private management through clearly defined property rights is superior to political management on every point. We can improve resource management greatly by relying more on property rights and market forces and less on political management.”
Private Conservation in Austin
A recent Austin American-Statesman article painted a picture of Paradise, Central Texas-style: “Springs feed a 10-acre lake and a six-acre lake that contribute to Barton Creek. Thick stands of pecan and black walnut trees shade the mile or so of creek that wanders through the property. Deer scamper from here to there, and wild turkeys hide in the shrubs.” These scenes are part of a 1,300 acre tract at the headwaters of Barton Creek, purchased by two local businessmen who have agreed to permanently restrict the property to rural uses. In this state, the property is worth about half of its unrestricted $6.5 million market value, but the difference can be counted as a charitable contribution for a valuable income tax break. 
The latest figures available (1997) show Texas leading the nation in overall energy consumption and industrial electric consumption, and second in residential energy use. Reduced production of oil and gas and a rising population have led to another Texas first: according to the Texas Energy Coordination Council, “Texas recently lost its traditional role as an energy exporter and became an energy importer, with imports exceeding exports by $5.7 billion in 1998.”
New technologies can help reduce the amount of energy the state needs by improving energy efficiency. The obvious economic benefits of energy efficiency include reduced costs; considering that the state spent more than $170 million on electricity in 1999, the potential savings applied across state agencies could be very substantial.
Another economic benefit of increased energy efficiency is a reduced need for new generation facilities, which could save the economy billions. According to a study by the University of Texas’ Center for Energy Studies, “If a comprehensive set of energy efficiency measures were implemented wherever technically feasible, all of the anticipated growth in electricity use among the state’s residential and commercial energy consumers through the year 2010 could be eliminated.” That growth includes 50 new power generation facilities expected to come on line in Texas between 1999 and 2003.
Increasing Energy Efficiency through Performance Contracts
In the absence of any need to earn a profit, governments tend to manage their assets and resources more loosely than the private sector. Governments are particularly notorious for inefficient energy usage. In Texas, moreover, energy costs for many state buildings are paid from funds allocated by the Legislature to the General Services Commission rather than from individual agency budgets, which gives the agencies little incentive to establish strong conservation policies.
Moreover, while we know how much energy the state uses, we don’t know how we use it, because most state buildings are not metered individually. Instead, state energy management resembles the way things would be if landlords paid for all of their residents’ electricity and gas charges: air conditioners would always be cranked down to around 70 degrees, friends and family would come over to use the washing machines and dryers, and lights would always be left on.
When e-Texas’ Environment and Natural Resources task force began examining state energy usage, it soon became apparent that state-of-the-art energy conservation measures could produce significant savings. For example, the Capitol Extension was a state-of-the-art energy-efficient building when it was completed in 1992. In 1995, a review of the building’s mechanical systems led to recommendations for modifications that produced annual energy savings of $144,700, or 27 percent. We believe the state can reduce its current annual electricity bill of $172 million by 20 percent, saving some $34 million annually, by contracting with private companies to implement energy conservation practices. These measures also should result in significant environmental benefits, such as reductions in air pollution.
Many state buildings are relatively old and tend to use more energy than modern, energy-efficient structures. Despite this, state government has no coherent plan for retrofitting its facilities for greater energy efficiency. To remedy this situation, the Comptroller has formed a Special Task Force on Energy Efficiency, with representatives from industry, higher education, state agencies and the environmental community, to develop policies and plans to improve energy efficiency throughout Texas.
One early task force finding was that large private companies and governments alike have discovered that one of the best strategies for reducing energy use involves entering into performance contracts with firms who specialize in this area. Termed “energy savings performance contracts,” these agreements pay for the needed projects with, and require the contractor to guarantee the savings that will result from its conservation projects and to reimburse the state if the estimated savings are not realized. Texas state agencies could finance these contracts in a number of different ways, including general revenue; the Loan Star Fund, a state program that provides low-interest loans to state agencies and local governments for energy projects; Rebuild America, a federal project that can help state and local governments and community organizations locate private financing for energy conservation projects; and the Texas Public Finance Authority, which provides state agencies with financing for capital projects and equipment acquisitions.
In response to a recommendation from e-Texas, in November 2000, the Comptroller instructed the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO), a state entity administered by the Comptroller’s office, to develop and implement an energy cost-reduction measure program for the state. In addition to savings in tax dollars, this program should reduce air pollution and improve the indoor air quality of state buildings, protecting employee health and comfort.
Innovations in Environmental Policy
Over the last 30 years, the environmental movement has achieved major victories in Congress. The creation of the federal EPA, the Endangered Species Act and other legislative milestones sent a clear message to states that the environment was no longer only a local issue.
While environmental laws and regulations have achieved notable progress, not all environmental improvement is attributable to legislation or regulations. The marketplace and private stewardship have played a significant role as well. For example, an increasing number of landowners are working to preserve the value of their holdings by protecting fields and forests that serve as wildlife habitat.
New approaches to environmental protection and natural resource management are emerging across the nation. The e-Texas commission worked with the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) to survey states on the approaches they are using to ensure compliance with environmental regulations among industry, local governments and other regulated entities. ECOS’ work provides a brief background of state compliance assistance programs and summaries of the innovations and best practices of 14 states.
According to the survey, as well as previous research done by ECOS, there are four common principles of successful state environmental programs:
• A focus on problem-solving instead of punishment.
• Significant flexibility for regulated businesses making good-faith efforts to achieve environmental results.
• Partnership with the private sector in environmental improvement.
• Devolving decision-making authority to the lowest appropriate level whether local, statewide or federal.
These principles offer working guideposts for Texas’ environmental programs.
Problem-Solving Instead of Punishment
Governments use a variety of tools to ensure compliance with regulations, including audits, inspections, reporting, enforcement, monitoring and outreach efforts. Some enforcement efforts may always be necessary, but enforcement that leads to prosecution for trivial procedural violations is costly and may inhibit rather than foster actual environmental improvements. Many states are moving away from an enforcement-centered vision of environmental policy and toward one that concentrates on solving environmental problems.
Such approaches involve compliance assistance initiatives and programs, including tools such as on-site compliance visits, training seminars and workshops, guidance documents, fact sheets, hotlines, and newsletters intended to prevent violations and to return violators to compliance quickly after a violation occurs.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s enforcement program, for example, allows a facility found to be in violation of regulations to offset all or a portion of its fine by establishing an onsite pollution prevention project. In most cases, a $1 credit is applied against the penalty for every $1 invested in the project.
Michigan’s Clean Corporate Citizen Program
The Clean Corporate Citizen program allows participants greater flexibility in permitting as well as expedited permit processing. To participate, companies must demonstrate that they have a strong and effective environmental management system (EMS) in place. The EMS must include, among other components, identification of environmental impacts, self-initiated compliance audits, public participation, a strong and clear statement of the company’s commitment to environmental excellence, and environmental training for employees.
Increased Flexibility for Results
Through flexible approaches that emphasize outcomes rather than processes, Texas can build on the revolution already underway across the country, replacing strict regulations with cooperative goal-setting. To alleviate some of the problems caused by traditional regulation, such as high costs, delays, industry resistance, local objections, litigation and the stifling of innovation, several states are exploring alternatives to environmental permitting.
Under the Massachusetts Environmental Results Program, for example, regulated entities no longer receive permits. Instead, each facility commits to a specific level of environmental performance and then reports on or certifies annually their compliance with these standards. Rather than focusing on issuing permits, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection establishes standards; conducts inspections to ensure the accuracy of company certifications; and takes enforcement actions against those who fail to perform or falsely certify their compliance. The primary objective of this program is to focus the state’s limited resources where they will make the biggest difference, in compliance audits and facility inspections.
Another particularly useful tool is the environmental management system (EMS), a set of operating policies, procedures and methods that incorporate regulatory requirements throughout an organization’s business and manufacturing processes. An EMS can support an array of regulatory tools and voluntary programs that help organizations to reach, maintain and exceed compliance. These systems can be used to help regulated entities move from simple compliance to constant improvement in environmental performance and pollution prevention.
Wisconsin’s Green Tier Program, for example, provides incentives to reward environmental performance and encourage environmental consciousness. Under the program, the state negotiates enforceable contracts with individual firms requiring them to establish an EMS to ensure compliance, predictable performance and due diligence in protective actions. Self-auditing, policing and reporting also may be included in the contract. The program allows businesses to save time and reduce costs; use innovative methods to obtain results; limit their legal liability; adapt to market demands; and trade emissions, within certain limits.
Additionally, sound environmental performance measures are an important step in providing valid and understandable environmental information to the public. This information is most effective if it is distributed to stakeholders and used to target resources and identify opportunities for collaborative partnerships.
Florida’s Results-Based Environmental Performance System
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has incorporated a results-based performance measurement system into its management system by merging performance measurement and environmental problem-solving. Each quarter, four tiers of performance measures are compiled, published and distributed in the Secretary’s Quarterly Performance Report. The department’s secretary and deputy secretary then review the report to identify emerging environmental problems, trends, and patterns of noncompliance. Based on their reviews, the agency assigns a priority level of “Good,” “Watch,” or “Focus” to each item. The agency’s environmental problem-solving approach then is used to develop integrated responses to the problems.
Partnerships and Voluntary Approaches
With the advent of new technologies and increased corporate awareness of the premium people place on a clean environment, the focus of environmental activism has changed. State policymakers, with the blessing of the federal government, have begun using incentives to encourage environmental responsibility. This new vision has led to the creation of a series of programs that partner the private sector with state government to improve the environment.
New Jersey’s Gold and Silver Track Program, for example, is intended to create incentives for corporate and public partners who make a commitment to improving their environmental performance as an integral part of their organizational goals. Participation in the Silver Track Program is open to the entire regulated community, public and private; participants are eligible for regulatory incentives and special recognition for their stated commitment to comply with all relevant regulations, and the development and implementation of Operation and Environmental Compliance and Community Outreach plans. The Gold Track is for businesses that already participate in the Silver Track Program, offering them increased regulatory flexibility and recognition by the regulatory agency, including press releases and performance awards.
Texas has also been a leader in providing incentives for voluntary compliance and site cleanup through initiatives such as the Voluntary Cleanup Program and Clean Industries 2000. Still other Texas programs provide tax incentives for businesses that install environmentally friendly technology.
Environmental Self-Audits in Texas
The Texas Environmental, Health, and Safety Audit Privilege Act, enacted in 1995 and subsequently amended in 1997, provides incentives for regulated entities to conduct voluntary self-audits of their compliance with environmental, health and safety regulations and to implement prompt corrective actions. TNRCC has received notices from 1,112 regulated facilities of their intent to conduct voluntary self-audits; 273 self-disclosures of violations have been made to TNRCC as a result. The agency has found that many of the violations discovered in self-audits would not have been discovered in an ordinary state agency inspection, since the violations could be discovered only through expensive sampling and testing protocols or time-consuming data reviews.
Devolving Decision-Making Authority
For decades, the federal government has made many important environmental decisions that have encroached upon state and local decision-making; yet the problem’s impact should help determine where decision-making authority ought to reside. For air emission problems, that might mean a local air basin or regional entity.
Decision-making at the state level that seeks local input and uses relevant local information about community priorities and opportunities for environmental improvements often proves to be the most effective. In decentralized decision-making, citizens face the risks associated with a facility, but also directly enjoy its benefits and bear the costs associated with a particular remedy.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth, Beaumont-Port Arthur, and Houston-Galveston areas, for example, TNRCC has worked closely with local stakeholders to develop control strategies to meet the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act. As TNRCC’s deputy director of policy and regulatory development, Randolph Wood, noted at an e-Texas hearing, “Our old approach [to regulating the environment] was to set specific limits and enforce those limits. Our new approach is to go into the communities, emphasize that environment compliance is a community problem and the community needs to play an integral part in solving the problem. TNRCC will then assist and partner with the community to reduce contaminants.”
Companies also have begun to initiate their own local environmental programs. Many firms have, for example, established local committees or citizen groups near their plants to better identify local concerns and seek input into environmental management programs at the plant.
Strategies for Improving Texas’ Environment
Texas should build on its existing progress and continue to redesign the state’s environmental and natural resource management policy. 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. Any framework for the future of Texas’ environmental protection and natural resource management efforts should include the following goals.
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. To help Texas meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act, TNRCC’s Emission Credit Banking and Trading Program provides a market-based framework that allows private companies to trade credits for reduced emissions of volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and certain other pollutants. TNRCC designed the program to provide companies with additional flexibility in complying with regulations while creating a net reduction in total air emissions with each trade transaction.
Strategies in Brief
Use Technology to Reduce Compliance Costs While Improving Environmental Quality
Establish a Results-Based Environmental Protection System that Sets Goals and Standards and Allows for More Flexibility in their Achievement
Maximize State and Local Decision-Making in Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management
Use Financial Incentives and Market-Based Tools to Protect and Improve the Environment
Electronic marketplaces for water, air emissions and effluent trading in turn, internet marketing can reach a broader spectrum of buyers and sellers, and provide the convenience of online data review and transactions. Texas should streamline its authorization and permitting processes to facilitate air emissions and surface water rights trading, and expand its electronic permitting, reporting and online information services to facilitate decisions on the price of emission credits and water. In developing its policy on effluent trading, TNRCC should develop a plan on how to further facilitate Internet marketing.
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.
ACTION: The state should encourage the cleanup and redevelopment of “brownfields.”
Brownfields are industrial or commercial properties that have been abandoned or underused because of long-term environmental contamination. TNRCC estimates that the redevelopment of 1,000 brownfield properties between 1995 and 1999 resulted in the creation of 8,200 Texas jobs and the addition of $204 million in property values to local tax rolls. In all, real estate sales from such projects have topped $211 million.
One brownfield area in east Houston, for instance, had been unused for 17 years. Four decades of heavy industrial use left low-level residues of hydrocarbons and metals in the soil and groundwater. The newly cleaned site will now be home to a Latino Learning Center, a 5,500-square-foot community center with programs for youth and housing for low-income elderly.
The state should encourage the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields by using economic development taxes to pay for cleanup; allowing the creation of enterprise zones around brownfield sites that have been cleaned up; providing special vendor status for companies that do business with the state and have redeveloped a brownfield; and encouraging brownfield cleanups as part of a Supplemental Environmental Project.
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.
Many governments are using the Internet to provide increased flexibility to regulated entities through electronic permitting, reporting and other key services.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), for example, has developed a multimedia compliance reporting information system called eF.A.C.T.S. The system provides full online access for citizens who wish to determine whether Pennsylvania’s individuals, businesses and local governments are complying with environmental laws. The system also serves as a management tool for PADEP, providing managers with important information such as the frequency of violations in specific programs. Such data allow PADEP to track patterns of violations so that it can develop targeted compliance assistance strategies, including seminars, improved technical manuals, and more clearly written permits and regulations.
Texas state agencies are beginning to redesign their online services to make information more readily available. For example, anyone can sign up to receive automated e-mail notifications from TNRCC of ozone action day forecasts and near-real-time ozone warnings in Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, based on measured ozone concentrations. Meanwhile, the Texas Railroad Commission is developing an electronic compliance and approval program for its drilling permit application.
ACTION: TNRCC should provide incentives for linking private air quality monitoring systems to those of the TNRCC.
New environmental technology will prove all-important in national efforts to improve environmental protection while promoting economic development. TNRCC must play a role in promoting the development and use of innovative technologies that can enhance environmental protection while providing the business community with increased flexibility. For instance, linking TNRCC’s monitoring system with regulated entities’ monitoring systems, specifically continuous emissions monitors and fence line monitoring systems, could result in more comprehensive and accessible monitoring data for TNRCC. TNRCC should offer regulatory incentives for regulated entities with air emissions to link their monitoring systems with TNRCC’s real-time data system that is fed into a TNRCC Internet server.
Online Permit Assistance in Washington
As part of an ongoing effort to reduce confusion and increase compliance with environmental laws, the Washington Department of Ecology has created an Internet application to help people determine which state and federal environmental permits they will need for a project. The On-Line Permit Assistance system asks a series of questions about the proposed project and, depending on the answers, provides a list of permits that will be required, along with contact names and phone numbers of the agencies to contact. Several permit applications are available for downloading.
ACTION: Provide electronic reporting alternatives for businesses and individuals.
Reporting requirements are resource intensive for the regulated community as well as state government. Electronic filing is faster, cheaper and cuts down on paper. Electronic reporting also allows data to move from business to government databases more rapidly than traditional filing mechanisms and in many cases can result in significant savings to government and the regulated community.
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.
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.
ACTION: Use Supplemental Environmental Projects to encourage the use of pollution prevention projects, environmental management systems and brownfield cleanups.
TNRCC’s Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEP) program allows fines, fees and penalties for environmental violations to be directed toward environmentally beneficial projects. TNRCC favors SEPs that directly benefit the environment in the community in which the violation occurred and prefers not to approve projects that result in a direct benefit to the respondent. Although TNRCC has been flexible and innovative in its use of SEPs, the agency could do more to encourage their use in the area of pollution prevention, EMS, and brownfield cleanups. For example, TNRCC should give equal weight to on-site pollution prevention projects and environmental management systems in approving SEPs.
ACTION: Promote the use of environmental management systems (EMS).
A comprehensive approach to compliance through the use of an EMS can help organizations consistently meet their environmental regulatory obligations. Texas has experimented with the use of EMS, but has not developed a comprehensive program. The state should establish, through legislation, a policy to promote the use of EMS to improve compliance and prevent pollution. TNRCC should integrate EMS into its many programs including permitting, compliance assistance, and enforcement.
ACTION: Develop performance measures that quantify environmental improvements.
Texas state agencies are required to develop measures that reflect their performance, but not necessarily their effectiveness in meeting their goals. TNRCC, however, is developing a set of environmental measures that clearly indicate the condition and quality of the state’s air, water and land resources. Such indicators will allow TNRCC to judge its progress in protecting the environment. An environmental indicator is a quantitative measure, usually expressed in concentrations of pollutants or in the health or ecological effects of pollutants; an example is “the percent of Texas surface waters meeting or exceeding water quality standards.” Indicators such as these can be used to track progress over time and measure actual results, unlike measures that simply indicate the level of regulatory activity taking place, such as the number of inspections performed.
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 should do what it can, moreover, to receive flexibility from the federal government.
ACTION: 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).
State and local officials should actively pursue opportunities for local innovation and environmental quality improvement. For instance, the state should ensure that federal “policies” and “guidelines” not codified in federal regulations do not drive state-delegated programs. Additionally, the legislature should adopt a resolution asking the EPA to provide the maximum flexibility to states with delegated federal programs to experiment with environmental innovations. TNRCC should also expand its coordination efforts with the Environmental Council of the States and other national associations to increase its flexibility with federal programs delegated by the EPA.