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Summary: HB 2615 would increase the penalties for companies not reporting water usage information to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Currently, a violation calls for a $25 initial fine plus an extra $1 per day that the company fails to report. The total penalty cannot exceed $150. HB 2615 would allow the TCEQ to issue a fine of up to $5,000 per day with no cap put on the penalty.
Analysis: The increase in the allowed penalty proposed in HB 2615 would represent a drastic expansion of government. Because water usage is an important issue in the state and it is within TCEQ’s authority to request information from these companies who use large amounts of water, TCEQ should be able to enforce its rules. However, giving an agency full discretion to decide how much to fine a private company lacks the level of oversight that is required of a transparent government. If an amendment was added that clearly defined the penalty structure and capped the penalty at a reasonable amount, we would reconsider our recommendation.