From January 31 to March 30, over 1200 comments were submitted on the TCEQ Pristine Streams rule change petition. This had incredible effect on the Commissioners as they met on March 30th to hear public comments and take action on the petition. Over an hour of eloquent, heart-felt, researched comments made a lasting impression.
Blanco City Council and the Blanco Water Reclamation Task Force efforts to find alternatives to direct discharge were highlighted as major successes and lauded as the sustainable path forward for the Hill Country. The Highland Lakes were also spotlighted for the existing protections. “TCEQ prohibited new discharge permits around the Highland Lakes in 1986,” said Zabcik. “We have 36 years of knowing that you can do development without discharge because anyone who’s been in those lakes knows that development hasn’t stopped there.” (quote from Fox 7 News Segment)
Note: Rulemaking petition starts at timestamp 1:30 on the above YouTube archive.
Ultimately, Commissioners Niermann and Lindley voted to deny the rule making petition; Commissioner Janecka opposed the denial. Commissioner Niermann motion was to deny the petition for rulemaking and issue the Executive Director’s proposed Order, but modify the Order to state a single reason for the denial as follows: the TCEQ already addresses the concerns raised in the petition with a legally adequate program for assessing and protecting stream segments under Texas surface water quality standards at 30 Texas Administrative Code Chapter 307 and the Agency’s TPDES Permitting Program.
While this is not the outcome we had hoped for, the Commissioners openly discussed the need to develop a stakeholder committee and look at options to better protect streams—whether through existing rules or recommendation to Legislature.
The impact the written comments, in-person comments, and involvement from so many stakeholders was evident. The Commissioners acknowledged work needs to be done. TCEQ staff will present at a future meeting to answer questions about existing tools and options to protect water quality in streams. So, stay tuned and THANK YOU for your help!
News and Reports of Interest:
- TCEQ Ignores Public Pressure and Votes Not to Protect Pristine Streams in Texas (Sierra Club, March 31, 2022)
- TCEQ denies petition to create rule against issuing wastewater discharge permits on pristine streams (Fox News, March 30, 2022)
- Is Texas Hill Country in danger of being ‘loved to death’? (Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 2022)
- State of the Hill Country Report: 8 Conservation and Growth Metrics for a Region at a Crossroads (Texas Hill Country Conservation Network, March, 2022)
- Action Alert: Support TCEQ Pristine Streams Petition: Resolutions and Support Letter examples (Watershed Association, March 9, 2022)
- Pristine streams in Texas need protection. It’s up to the state Senate to act. (Environmental Defense Fund, May 18, 2021)
- Texas House passes bill banning wastewater discharge permits along ‘pristine’ streams (KVUE, May 21, 2021)