Reporting an Environmental Violation
REPORTING AN ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATION (WASTE, AIR or WATER)
If someone is messing with your part of Texas, you can report a suspected environmental violation directly from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's (TCEQ) website. Click here for the TCEQ's Make An Environmental Complaint page. It really is that simple.
Or is it? The TCEQ's resources are stretched very thin. They don't have time to fully investigate every tip. Your complaint may go nowhere, or at least nowhere fast. You may not use terms of art properly, and as a result the TCEQ may misinterpret your complaint. The TCEQ may not even be the right place to make your complaint. In some instances, you may need to make the report to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC).
The RRC's webiste is a little difficult to navigate because it doesn't have just one complaint page, but one of those pages is its Environmental Services page. The EPA's website complaint page is its Report an Environmental Violation page.
If you are serious about jump-starting agency action, it helps to know what facts will motivate the agency, and give them those facts in the complaint. It helps to know the terms of art used by that agency, and use those terms properly to bring the gravity of the problem quickly and clearly into focus for the person at the agency who will review and evaluate your complaint. And as crazy as it may sound, you might end up needing defense from agency action against you. Making a complaint can be compared to a battlefield. As you pursue victory, stay out of the agency's line of fire.
it is wise to consult with competent professionals prior to contacting the agency in order to make sure you are talking to the right agency, identify their trigger points, assemble the most persuasive facts possible, state them most persuasively, while at the same time keeping yourself out of harm's way. This is art, not science. Sometimes this information is easy to identify, other times it can be obtuse (foggy). But if your situation is serious enough to warrant agency action on somebody else's dime, getting it started right is a worthwhile investment of your time and money. Contact us to help you evaluate your complaint, identify the right agency, and present your case.
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The need to enforce environmental rights can arise in many different circumstances, such as (for example):
A tenant misused hazardous materials
An operator did not obtain a proper permit
A seller failed to disclose environmental property damage
A neighbor’s operations contaminated your property (such as a petroleum tank leak)
Someone dumped, leaked or spilled regulated material on your property
You see or smell something unpleasant in the air (a noxious odor)
A noxious odor makes you sick
Petroleum substances are spilled around an oil or gas well on your property
A saltwater injection well or transmission line fails (leaks)
Water violations may include:
You can't obtain sufficient water supply, or maybe any water supply
Your water supply is erratic
The quality of your water is....subpar
You have problems with your drinking water
You see water that may be polluted
A groundwater conservation district is uncooperative
The quality of your groundwater well water changes suddenly
Your groundwater well becomes polluted
Generally, one of these three agencies will have enforcement power to punish and remedy environmental and water supply violations.
Once the agency undertakes regulatory enforcement action, interested parties (such as yourself) should monitor the case to completion. These three agencies are large and yet still historically understaffed. Continuing to assist them in relevant ways is generally helpful, and often needed. If the matter becomes a formal contested case, you may want to file a request to be designated an “interested party.” It is not necessarily an automatic designation. There are regulatory rules that determine whether a person qualifies as an “interested party.” There is more information on contested case hearings on our Defense page. For more information on water-related issues, see our water law website, TexasH2OLaw.com.
Agencies have more than one way to resolve complaints and enforcement actions. For example, the TCEQ has a "Voluntary Cleanup Program" and CAS. It can use Municipal Settings Designations and Texas Risk Reduction Program rules. Some options may be better for you than others. You may or may not have the ability to control what the agency does. And you may have more rights to pursue after the agency has completed its enforcement and cleanup actvities.
There are alternatives to agency enforcement. You may have private contract rights, and you may have the right to file a civil lawsuit in state or federal court. Although Mark McPherson is licensed to practice in all state courts as well as the Northern, Eastern, Southern and Western Federal District Courts of Texas, he does not practice federal trial law or civil trial law. We can assist you in identifying trial attorneys, and we can work in concert with them by directing and coordinating state agency action with the civil trial action. Some are easier to work with than others.
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We represent clients all over Texas to help them make complaints and enforce their rights under environmental laws. If you think someone has messed with your piece of Texas, please contact us at 927-381-9800 to schedule an appointment, discuss your remedies and obtain assistance in pursuing your rights.
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