State Rep. Ed Thompson, R-Pearland, said he is working on several pieces of legislation to help the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality enforce rules and impose stiffer penalties for noncompliant facilities. “The legislation I’m looking at is more industry-specific, but it gets to the root of some of the problems that have existed at Blue Ridge,” Thompson said. “You can look all over the country, and there are issues with landfills. It’s about regulation and enforcement and giving TCEQ the right tools.”
One measure would look at increasing funding for TCEQ to hire as many as eight more officials to conduct investigations and advise permit holders on preventive and corrective actions. “This is not as much of a punitive approach but more so education and to point out issues before they become bigger problems,” Thompson said.
He also said he wants to increase the fines assessed when landfills violate state regulations. Thompson said he will propose a “three strikes” rule so that repetitive major violations result in a landfill owner’s permit being pulled, requiring them to reapply and meet state standards to continue operating. And when it comes to the permitting process, which can take hundreds of hours, he said, TCEQ should be allowed to bill by the hour and not a flat rate.
Adequately funding the agency is key to allowing it to do its job at a time when some in his district have lost faith in its ability to fix problems, Thompson said.