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HB 1865, if passed, would make modifications to the Government Code (Section 2003.047) and the Water Code (Section 5.115), both sets of changes regarding environmental permit applications.
The changes made to the Government Code place stricter requirements on the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality by requiring that contested cases be heard in a timely manner and that during the hearing only factual or legal issues are to be considered. All Commission decisions must be made before the 180th day after the initial submission of the contest. Some smaller, less drastic, additions are made to the code for the sake of clarification and making the process slightly stricter.
The changes made to the Water Code expand the areas which the Commission may consider in the event of a contested case, namely the potential effects on the health, safety, and use of property of the hearing requestor. Both sets of amendments make reference to Section 5.556 of the Water Code which referenced requests for reconsideration or contested case hearing.
Many of the changes made by HB 1865 would be small procedural changes but they mostly tend to work in the right direction by more clearly circumscribing the manner in which the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is to handle contested case hearings. Placing a 180 day deadline in place would be particularly helpful. On the grounds of increased transparency and efficiency we support HB 1865.