Recently released statistics from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and developments in Harris County indicate state and local environmental enforcement is on the rise, with the trend likely to continue. Reports show similar increases in state and local enforcement in other states.
High Profile Enforcement Cases in Harris County
Several civil and criminal environmental cases against affiliates of large multinational corporations are pending in Harris County (Houston) courts. One criminal case includes charges against three members of the corporation’s management. These cases accompany increased resources for lawyers and investigators to support Harris County’s civil and criminal environmental enforcement.
TCEQ Statistics Show Increased Enforcement
At the same time, TCEQ’s Fiscal Year 2019 statistics show increased enforcement efforts. According to TCEQ’s FY2019 Annual Enforcement Report, TCEQ issued 16,967 Notices of Violation (NOV) in FY2019, an increase from 16,132 in FY2018, and the first increase in NOV from the prior year since 2015.
In FY2019, TCEQ conducted 107,660 total investigations, exceeding each of the last three years by more than 3,000. The increase in investigations and NOV are likely to mean FY2020 will see TCEQ issue more administrative orders and assess more penalties.
Enforcement Trends Changing
As I mentioned last week, federal criminal environmental enforcement increased in FY2019. It appears enforcement filings will increase in Texas in FY2020 and local governments will remain active. At the local, state and federal levels, environmental enforcement is on the rise.
To see TCEQ’s FY2019 Report https://www.tceq.texas.gov/assets/public/compliance/enforcement/enf_reports/AER/FY19/enfrptfy19.pdf