2020 Environmental Real Estate Issues

I enjoyed the 2022 Texas Environmental SuperConference in Austin, Texas last week. Many thanks to the planners and presenters. Listed below are a few items I found of interest.

Virtual SOAH Hearings Will Continue
The State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) handles administrative permitting and enforcement matters for over 50 Texas agencies. Due to the success during the pandemic, expect ongoing SOAH hearings to use Zoom, even after any pandemic concerns are gone.

TCEQ Sunset
Texas requires regular review of administrative agencies, a process known as Sunset. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is currently undergoing Sunset review. The Sunset Staff Report on TCEQ is available.

For links to the Executive Summary and the full Sunset Staff Report https://www.sunset.texas.gov/reviews-and-reports/agencies/texas-commission-environmental-quality

Environmental Justice
Many speakers mentioned environmental justice, with one session devoted to the topic. It is challenging for regulators to develop specific guidance and rules based on general environmental justice principles. TCEQ mentioned that when Texas legislation directs issuance of a permit if regulatory requirements are met, TCEQ may be unable to consider factors not identified in the statute, absent specific rules from EPA or changes in legislation.

Class VI Injection Permits
Class VI permits are needed to inject carbon dioxide into the subsurface to prevent its escape into the atmosphere. Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana are in the process of applying to EPA to obtain Class VI primacy, which would give their state agencies (in Texas, the Railroad Commission) authority to issue Class VI permits. The states expect receiving primacy will result in more and faster issuance of Class VI permits.