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(The second chamber sponsor is Senator Hancock.)
HB 1794, if passed, would modify the Water Code by adding new sections (after Section 1, Subchapter H, Chapter 7). These sections would effectively limit the amount which could be levied by local governments. in the event that certain civil penalties are violated. These violations cover rules which are under the jurisdiction of, and permits which are issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. There are three new sections which would be added to the code by HB 1794.
The first new section would limit the amount which may be assessed in suit to between $50 and $25,000 total per day, and $3,400,000 in total. The second new section states that when determining how to levy a civil penalty, the factors listed in section 7.053 are to be consulted. The third new section states that any civil penalty must be brought to the attention of the Commission within five years of the violation being committed.
HB 1794 would be a positive development in that it places reasonable limits on the civil penalties which local governments can bring against those who violate TCEQ rules and practices. (Notably the bill does not limit TCEQ action.) Local governments are still free to bring suit for up to $3,400,000 which would likely be damaging enough for those who violate Commission laws. Also, helpful is the restriction that a suit must be brought before the Commission within five years of the offense being committed. We support HB 1794.