88th Legislative Session priorities
The Healthy Port Communities Coalition (HPCC) is a coalition of nonprofit, community-driven organizations that work to create a healthier Houston. Specifically, the HPCC works towards environmental and economic justice for communities located near the Port Houston and freight pathways. These are our priorities for the 88th session of the Texas Legislature.
The Texas Emissions Reduction Plan
The Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) is the most cost effective means to reduce pollution from vehicles. Since the creation of the TERP fund in 2019, funding allocated to TERP has increased. We support the continued collection of all TERP fees and their deposit directly into the TERP Fund. We recommend the following updates to TERP:
- Remove the individual vehicle limits in the Light-Duty Motor Vehicle Purchase or Lease Incentive Program found at Texas Health & Safety Code §§ 386.154 (c) and (e). Natural gas vehicles have never met their allotment of 1,000 vehicles, while electric vehicles quickly run out of their allotment of 2,000 vehicles.
- Increase the allocation to the Port Authorities Studies & Pilot Projects Program. We believe a worthy project under this program would be the Advanced Maritime Emission Control System (AMECS).
Finally, we recommend the legislature end the allocation of 40% of TERP funds to TxDOT for congestion mitigation and air quality improvement (CMAQ) projects. We do not believe that congestion mitigation is a cost-effective way to reduce air pollution. We urge the legislature to carefully consider the Texas Department of Transportation report to the TCEQ required by October 1 of each year on the cost effectiveness of emissions reductions achieved through CMAQ. If the program is not cost-effective, it should end.
Increased Funding for Air Monitoring
We also support increased air monitoring along the Texas Gulf Coast.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
We participated in the community advocacy organizations’ sunset working group and affirm the detailed recommendations made to the commission in these public comments. We would like to highlight the following priorities from the Sunset Advisory Commission Staff Report on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Recommendation 1.1 Clarify statute to require public meetings on permits to be held both before and after the issuance of the final draft permit.
Recommendation 1.5 Direct TCEQ to review and update its website to improve accessibility and Functionality.
Issue 2: TCEQ’s Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Processes Need Improvements to Consistently and Equitably Hold Regulated Entities Accountable.
We agree with the report’s conclusion that the compliance monitoring and enforcement programs need improvement.
Within the existing compliance history framework, we agree that the key recommendations are
improvements. With the caveat that our preference would be eliminating compliance history in
favor of a stronger approach to enforcement across the board, including mandatory penalties and larger fines that serve as actual economic deterrent.
Regarding Issue 1: we disagree with the usefulness of a vote on “key foundational policy decisions.” We believe this would be of limited utility due to the extent of our disagreement with TCEQ’s policy positions.
Regarding Issue 2: we disagree that guidance will solve the problems created by the affirmative defense. We recommend eliminating the affirmative defense, which is required anyway under a March 2022 rule proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Finally, we note the omission of any discussion of environmental justice and cumulative impacts of pollution in the Sunset staff report. One approach to this problem would be to give TCEQ commissioners additional authority to deny a permit that is administratively and technically complete if considerations of justice (“equity”) suggest it should not be issued, and require the Commission to actually implement currently-existing requirements regarding such issues.
The Public Utility Commission, ERCOT, and OPUC
We are concerned about the lack of public engagement in the Public Utility Commission energy market redesign process that has been ongoing since winter storm Uri. We recommend that PUC Sunset legislation include a proposal for deeper community engagement.
We believe that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) should remain independent of the Public Utility Commission. We do not support the recommendation to consolidate their boards.