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How Texas Rewards Environmental Innovation

Posted on 7/7/2021 by Roseanne Bottone

Have you ever read your state’s environmental requirements and thought, “There’s got to be a better way!”

If your facility is subject to environmental regulations in Texas, you can propose an alternative method or standard to limit pollution in lieu of following the standard regulations.

Title 30 of the Texas Administrative Code (30 TAC), Part I, Chapter 90 contains the procedures for Innovative Programs. The goal of this program is to provide for enhanced environmental performance and to reward compliance excellence. These provisions allow facilities to obtain a Regulatory Flexibility Order from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to do things their own way—as long as their own way provides an equal or better level of protection to the environment.

In addition to the management and disposal of hazardous waste, industrial solid waste, or municipal solid waste, the Innovative Programs provisions apply to discharges to water, petroleum storage tanks, disposal of waste by underground injection, air emissions, and other areas of environmental compliance.

Who’s Eligible for Texas Innovative Programs?

TCEQ’s Innovative Programs provisions apply to persons subject to:
  • The requirements of the Texas Water Code (TWC), Ch. 26, 27, and 32; and
  • Texas Health and Safety Code (THSC), Ch. 361, 375, 382, and 401
A site can lose eligibility for five years following a judgment against the site “in a suit brought by the Texas or United States Attorney General.” Conviction for an environmental crime will make a person ineligible for three years.

How to Apply for a Regulatory Flexibility Order (RFO)

What kind of information do you have to submit with your application for a Regulatory Flexibility Order (RFO)? The requirements for applications are found in Section 90.13 of the Innovative Programs chapter. 

Applications must include: 
  1. A narrative summary of the proposal, including the specific statutes or commission rules for which an exemption is being sought;
  2. A detailed explanation, including a demonstration as appropriate, that the proposed alternative is:
    1. As protective of the environment and the public health as the method or standard prescribed by the statute or commission rule that would otherwise apply; and
    2. not inconsistent with federal law, including any requirement for a federally approved or authorized program;
  3. Evidence that the alternative the applicant proposes is as protective of the environment and the public health as the method or standard prescribed by the statute or commission rule that would otherwise apply;
  4. An implementation schedule which includes a proposal for monitoring, recordkeeping, and/or reporting, where appropriate, of environmental performance and compliance under the RFO;
  5. An identification, if applicable, of any proposed transfers of pollutants between media;
  6. A description of efforts made or proposed to involve the local community and to achieve local community support;
  7. An application fee (and subsequent agreement regarding recoverable costs such as those incurred by the commission for administrative review, technical review, and hearings associated with the application); and
  8. Any other information requested from the applicant by the executive director during the application review period. (See Section 90.13)
This is a lot of work, as you can see—and the work doesn’t stop when the application is submitted. Any person who receives incentives under the program must submit a progress report every two years to demonstrate and document enhanced environmental performance (Section 90.14).
Depending on the complexity of your proposal, obtaining regulatory flexibility may require an initial financial investment for review and implementation. You will have to take this time and cost factor into account when determining your return on investment (ROI). However, employing creativity and innovation may allow for a better process flow and waste management operations that will pay off in the long run. 

What Are the Benefits?

TCEQ offers various incentives for enhanced environmental performance under the Innovative Programs provisions. Incentives TCEQ extends to a particular site will depend on the site’s compliance history and its voluntary measures to improve environmental quality.
For participation in the program, TCEQ may extend incentives including, but not limited to:
  1. One point of contact for coordinating innovative programs;
  2. Technical assistance provided by the agency;
  3. Accelerated access to agency information;
  4. Modification of state regulatory requirements that do not increase existing emission or discharge limits or decrease public involvement;
  5. Flexibility in regulatory processes;
  6. Public recognition; and
  7. Inclusion of the use of an Environmental Management System in a site's compliance history and compliance summaries.
Remember, this is in addition to tailoring regulations to facilitate your operations and doing it your way!

August 2021: Houston & Dallas RCRA Training

Be ready when TCEQ adopts major RCRA changes for hazardous waste generators in Texas!

This in-person, 3-day training covers the latest RCRA requirements you must know, as well as the unique standards for identifying and managing industrial waste in the Lone Star State. 
Houston August 18–20
Dallas August 23–25

Tags: environmental compliance, hazardous waste management, industrial waste management, TCEQ

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