As the 88th session of the Texas legislature gets underway, I review the new bills filed daily to determine how they will affect our shared agenda. This past Tuesday brought one of the meanest bills I have ever seen filed in Texas. SB 471, filed by Senator Drew Springer of Muenster, would require the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality to “charge a person who files a complaint a fee before the commission investigates the complaint if, in the same calendar year in which the complaint is filed, the person has filed at least three complaints with the commission for which neither the commission nor a local enforcement official took enforcement action before closing the file on the complaint”.
Persistent citizen complaints often indicate that the problem has not been fixed, despite the status as determined by TCEQ when closing a case file. We are aware of instances when TCEQ has closed a complaint case file prior to receiving a final report from their own investigators.
For going on two months, residents of the Grove subdivision at Vintage Oaks, a suburb of New Braunfels, have complained to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) about “a horrible sewer, rotten egg, sulfur, and feces smell” emanating from the Vintage Oaks wastewater treatment plant owned by San Jose Water, a California company that purchased Canyon Lake Water Supply in 2021. According to one resident, the smell “permeates our homes, sinks, stove, air vents, shower drains, and toilets. It is so bad that you can smell it off Interstate 46.”
TCEQ records show that between 11/25/2022 and 1/2/2023, twenty-two complaints about the smell from area residents have been registered. Our research shows intermittent complaints about foul odors coming from this plant have been registered since 2019. Files for all of these complaints, including the most recent, have been “closed” according to the TCEQ Central Registry. Notes for each complaint state: “Action Taken: This complaint has been assigned and will be further investigated by an Environmental Investigator. The investigation data; however, is not available until approved by management.”
Obviously, Senator Springer disagrees that the customer is always right. To add insult to injury, he is proposing that citizens be charged fees for submitting complaints about issues that were never addressed in the first place. To read the full text of SB 471, please visit https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=88R&Bill=SB471 .
Stay tuned for updates on the status of the good, the bad, and – in this case, the ugly – bills being filed. And, please, feel free to let your legislators know how you feel about legislation that affects you.