Legislative Wrap-Up: What it Means for TCEQ

State lawmakers increase incentives to improve air quality, regulate petroleum storage tanks, and prepare for lead testing in schools’ drinking water.

Efforts to improve air quality in Texas got a boost during the recent legislative session when state lawmakers approved changes that will hasten the retirement of older, dirtier vehicles.

Among the changes is a measure to send revenue collected by TCEQ’s Texas Emissions Reduction Plan to a new trust, which will allow the agency to offer additional financial incentives to promote cleaner vehicles and alternative fueling infrastructure.

Legislative action also redirects 35% of TERP funding to the Texas Department of Transportation for projects designed to alleviate traffic congestion.

All told, lawmakers’ actions could more than double the amount of funding available for TERP programs during the next fiscal year.

TERP supports a variety of programs through grants – to replace heavy‑duty and light‑duty on‑road diesel trucks with alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles; build or expand natural gas and other alternative fueling stations; replace or retrofit diesel‑fueled school buses; support new technologies that reduce pollution from stationary sources; replace aging drayage trucks and other equipment at seaports and rail yards; and more.

Learn more about TERP’s programs and how to apply for grants and other incentives.

The Legislature also enacted a law to strengthen regulation of above ground storage tanks used to store chemicals, crude oil, gasoline, and other petroleum products in bulk quantities.

Lawmakers’ interest in augmenting regulation of the facilities grew following the 2019 ITC fire and TPC fire involving storage vessels, as well as growing concern for potential damage inflicted by storms and other extreme weather events along the Texas Gulf Coast, where many of the facilities are located.

Under the law, owners and operators of storage tanks will be required to register with TCEQ and report their compliance status under the new Bulk Storage Vessel Performance Standards Program no later than Sept. 1, 2027.

Approximately 36,000 storage vessels will be subject to the program, which also requires TCEQ to conduct on­site inspections of the registered/certified facilities at least once every five years.

Legislators also allocated TCEQ $7.1 million to implement federal Lead and Copper Rule Revisions, which include extensive updates to the existing rule. One of the new requirements of the rule is the testing of drinking water in elementary schools and child care facilities for lead. TCEQ will oversee the testing, to be conducted by local public water systems, as promulgated by the EPA. The funding will be used to create a new database, design a monitoring system, and hire 39 full-time employees to carry out the mandate.

Photo by Clark Van Der Beken