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Agency Activities: Environmental Assistance (FY2013-2014)

The following summarizes the agency’s activities regarding voluntary programs and renewing old and surplus materials. (Part of Chapter 2—Biennial Report to the 84th Legislature, FY2013-FY2014)

Environmental Assistance

Voluntary Programs

The TCEQ uses technical assistance, education, and pollution prevention programs to encourage environmental improvements. The Environmental Assistance Division steers many of these programs in a direction that better focuses on agency priorities and aligns more closely with agency regulatory systems.

The renamed EAD was known as the Small Business and Environmental Assistance Division until the end of fiscal 2014.

In fiscal 2013 and 2014, the division responded to a total of 10,652 requests for assistance from small businesses and local governments. Of those, 479 received one-on-one assistance at their business site or facility.

Also, more than 340 small businesses and local governments took advantage of the Compliance Commitment Program. This program allows participants to undergo a site visit, during which a consultant contracted by the TCEQ uses a checklist to identify environmental compliance problems. After the visit, the businesses and facilities receive recommended actions they can take to resolve those problems. They must correct deficiencies within six months to be eligible for a compliance-commitment certificate.

Thirty-six percent of Compliance Commitment Program participants achieved full environmental compliance with the applicable industry checklist. Upon successful completion of the program, businesses receive a certificate and an exemption of up to two years from routine investigations by the agency and partners, such as the EPA and local environmental-enforcement authorities.

Moreover, the program allows small businesses and local governments to achieve compliance voluntarily and confidentially—without fear of enforcement. Site visits do not lead to an investigation or citation, unless there is an imminent threat to human health or the environment. Many times, participants find they save money by improving the efficiency of their processes and reducing paperwork.

In outreach to the smallest of water systems, the division developed an easy-to-use guide, Managing Small Public Water Systems (RG-501). The guide includes simple instructions and worksheets to complete and maintain an asset management plan with or without a computer. The guide covers system inventory and prioritization, planning, budgeting, assessing and protecting water sources, and best management practices.

Workshops on making the best use the guide were held in five cities, educating representatives from more than 100 water systems. Workshop locations included Amarillo, Conroe, Nacogdoches, New Braunfels, and Tyler. Additional workshops were planned along Texas’ southern border in the fall of 2014.

The TCEQ also offers educational opportunities and technical assistance through coordinated workshops, seminars, and education events, including the annual Trade Fair and Conference held in downtown Austin. During the last two years, the agency sponsored 16 seminars to provide technical information to almost 13,000 attendees.

For larger organizations such as refineries, universities, and municipal utility districts, the TCEQ offered technical advice on innovative approaches for improving environmental performance through pollution prevention planning.

All together, these efforts resulted in reductions of hazardous waste by more than 683,000 tons and toxic chemicals by about 84,000 tons during fiscal 2013–14.

Renewing Old and Surplus Materials

Texas established the Resource Exchange Network for Eliminating Waste (RENEW) in 1988 to promote the reuse or recycling of industrial waste.

The materials-exchange network has assisted in the trading of millions of pounds of materials, including plastic, wood, and laboratory chemicals. These exchanges divert materials from landfills and help participants reduce waste-disposal costs and receive money for their surplus materials.

RENEW is a free, easy-to-use service. Listings are grouped under “Materials Available” for anyone offering raw materials to other facilities, and “Materials Wanted” for anyone looking to find raw materials.

Through the RENEW website www.renewtx.org, these participants can list and promote information on opportunities for exchanging at national and regional levels.

In fiscal 2013 and 2014, 106 users signed up to use RENEW, and 261 new listings were posted.

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