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Mar 07 2017

Bold-Visioned Houston Attorney Tosses Hat in the Ring for TCEQ Leadership Position

(Houston) – March 7, 2017

It’s a unique time in environmental regulatory history.

Perhaps not in 40 years has there been a time when new ideas could take root.

Jed Anderson, a principal attorney with the AL Law Group and former attorney with Baker Botts, Vinson & Elkins, and an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Houston Law School where he taught the Clean Air Act—has tossed his hat in the ring to become the next TCEQ Commissioner.  Anderson said, “People have suggested this in the past, but until recently I dismissed it.”  “I’m not interested in leading the status quo.” “That’s largely been the gig.”  “I’m interested in a paradigm shift in Texas environmental regulation that allows us to reduce more pollution at significantly less cost to Texas citizens and businesses.”

Jed 3 (2)The business of environmental regulatory agencies over the last 30 years has generally been to pile more and more requirements on citizens and businesses in an effort to make the environment better.  “I don’t think this works any more.  To me it’s like a cup of coffee.  Just because you keep adding sugar doesn’t mean that the coffee will keep tasting better.  In fact, at some point it’s going to taste awful.”

According to Anderson, the status quo approach to environmental regulation will no longer work as we move forward in an increasingly interactive and competitive 21st century world filled with new problems and opportunities.  “Status quo is too much quo and not enough status.”  “We can elevate this issue and do much better.”  “Not until President Trump committed to reducing regulations by 75% and removing 2 rules for every 1 added did see a movement in a direction where I felt that I would really want to serve in such a role.  And the irony is that I didn’t even vote for the man.”

When asked whether Anderson thought he would mind being in the cross-hairs often as a TCEQ Commissioner leading in a new direction Anderson replied, “I don’t care if people don’t love me.  What I care about is if I don’t love them.  The rest is God’s business.  I just need to try to do what’s right and serve the people to the best of my abilities.”

Bold Vision for Texas Environmental Regulation

“The EPA has committed to reducing regulatory burdens—and as a TCEQ Commissioner I would create similar goals to reduce regulatory burdens on the State side,” said Anderson.

President Trump signed an Executive Order requiring two regulations removed for every regulation added.  President Trump has also committed to “cut regulations by 75%.”

“TCEQ requirements are more burdensome than EPA requirements in many ways since TCEQ has taken the Federal requirements and then added even more onto them,” said Anderson.

Most of the nation is focused on needed regulatory improvements at the Federal level, but few realize the similar and corresponding opportunities to reduce the size and complexity of requirements on the State side.  The number of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) rule records for example has grown by over 25% from 1999 to 2016.  Although much of these rules are in response to Federal mandates—not all fingers can be pointed at the Federal government for the resulting size and complexity of State regulation.  Moreover, outside of the formal rulemaking process, Special Conditions in permits have grown that impose additional requirements on industry.  “The size and complexity of these Special Conditions have grown significantly over the past 10 years in my experience”.  “Special Conditions just aren’t as special anymore.”  According to Anderson, it’s been easier for these requirements to become lengthier and more complex in part because these requirements do not go through notice-and-comment rulemaking and are put into place when industry is in the more vulnerable position of needing their permits.

The Solution

“The solution really is simplicity”, said Anderson.  “Similar to the Federal government looking for ways to reduce regulatory burdens, Texas should also be looking for corresponding ways to simplify and reduce regulatory burdens in ways that improve environmental and economic performance.”  “Special Conditions for example are necessary under the current system, but they can be simplified.”  “As a TCEQ Commissioner I would set a goal, similar to that of the Federal government, to substantially simplify and reduce regulatory burdens to Texas citizens and businesses.”  “Why not for example set a goal to see if we could remove two Special Condition requirements for every Special Condition requirement added–or review rules to see if 75%, 50%, or even 5% could be removed–or if they are too complicated, if there are redundancies, or if they need to be updated–or if new technologies could be utilized to further reduce compliance burdens, lower costs, and improve environmental performance.”

According to Anderson, few people realize the environmental damage caused by regulatory complexity.  “It’s hard to comply with the law when you have to comply with thousands of them sometimes and some of them are so complicated that the last EPA Administrator said you had to be a neuroscientist to figure them out.”

“There are multiple win-win opportunities to substantially reduce compliance costs while improving environmental performance.”

Anderson concluded, “We must simplify our environmental management systems—not just at the Federal level—but also at the State level and individual facility level.  With simplicity will come better transparency.  With transparency will come better accountability.  The more simple things are, the more everyone understands them.  The more everyone understands them, the better they can comply with them.  It’s that simple.”

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