April 28, 2015

The environment

Regarding “Local interests” (Page B15, April 5), important public policy is making its way through the Texas Legislature that will correct a serious and inadvertent flaw in the ability of the state to promote compliance with environmental standards and encourage prompt remediation of contaminated sites.

Texas law allows local governments to sue individuals and businesses to collect penalties for alleged environmental violations. This law has recently been used to seek billions of dollars in penalties going back in time for decades, even when the alleged polluters have spent millions of dollars cleaning up the contamination under the direction of the state. In effect, these lawsuits seek to punish businesses for doing exactly what they were supposed to do.

HB 1794 takes a common sense approach that allows local governments to recover penalties to stop and deter environmental violations, but not from the time the alleged polluter notifies the state of a violation and works in good faith with the state to clean up the mess.

HB 1794 does not prevent a local government from recovering damages from an environmental violation or an affected individual from filing suit for injuries or property damage.

People who pollute the environment should be required to clean up the site and pay damages to those who were harmed. HB 1794 preserves these remedies in full.

Texas leads the nation in job creation because we have a balanced and reasonable regulatory environment. Punitive lawsuits against people who take swift action to remediate pollution are neither balanced nor reasonable. HB 1794 is the right solution.

George S Christian,senior counsel for the Texas Civil Justice League, Austin

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