Environmental leaders say TCEQ failing Colorado County

Colorado County Citizen
By Vince Leibowitz
Original article here

Photo: Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

AUSTIN—Officials with Texas Campaign for the Environment, an environmental protection group in Austin that has provided some assistance to area residents in fighting permit applications by Altair Disposal Services to build a hazardous waste dump near Altair, said last week that the Skull Creek debacle is just another example that the agency has failed at exercising its mandate to protect the state’s environment.

Andrew Dobbs, a spokesperson for the group, said that while there are a lot of good people working at the agency, it is “more interested in protecting the status quo and avoiding conflict between members of the public and big polluters than protecting human health and the environment.”

He said Texans saw that this month with the ITC fire near Houston.

“They were telling everyone, ‘nothing to see here, folks,’ and you can look out the window and see the sky and see a black poison cloud hanging above them and know that’s not true,” Dobbs said.

“This is very typical of them,” Dobbs said.

“Just like the folks in Altair can tell you about fighting the landfill site, TCEQ staff and the waste applicants were collaborating and were essentially working on the same side,” he said.

He said that TCEQ misuses its mandate to protect the economic interest of business in the state.

“Everyone recognizes we need a healthy business climate to be prosperous and have a happy, healthy population,” Dobbs said.

“At the same time, if we don’t have water and land that is safe to live off of, we’re not going to have any prosperity to worry about,” he said. “TCEQ has completely gotten off balance on this stuff,” he said.

Dobbs said TCEQ’s top stars go on to be consultants and lobbyists for polluting industry in many instances. He noted that the agency’s former general counsel represented Clean Harbors/ Altair Disposal Services in the recent contested case hearing on their permit application for the proposed Altair hazardous waste dump.

“There is zero revolving door between TCEQ and the environment, and quite a bit between polluting industry, he said.

“Until that is fixed, there will be a lot of skepticism between them and the public on whether or not they are really protecting our environment,” Dobbs continued.

“People in Colorado County know that protecting the environment is not some abstract ideal. It’s protecting property, quality of life, your investments, and livestock and game and other things that every Texan cares about,” he said.

“I understand that we don’t want to go off on the deep end on environmental protection, but we don’t need to be falling off on the other side of the horse,” he said.

He said other states do a far better job with environmental protection than Texas.

“Others states do it better than we do—with no death and destruction,” he said. “We deserve better. We believe the people deserve better. It is time for this agency to step up and make sure people are being protected,” Dobbs said.

Richardson City Council Elections – Survey of candidates and voting info

Election Information

DALLAS COUNTY & COLLIN COUNTY Early Voting Times & Locations (within City of Richardson)

Monday, April 22 – Friday, April 26
Saturday, April 27
Sunday, April 28
Monday, April 29 – Tuesday, April 30
8 a.m.-5 p.m.
8 a.m.-5 p.m.
1 p.m.-6 p.m.
7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Dallas County Early Voting Locations | Collin County Early Voting Locations

COLLIN COUNTY Early Voting Times (outside City of Richardson)

Monday, April 22 – Wednesday, April 24
Thursday, April 25
Friday, April 26 – Saturday, April 27
Monday, April 29 – Tuesday, April 30
8 a.m.-5 p.m.
8 a.m.-7 p.m.
8 a.m.-5 p.m.
7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Election Day – MAY 4, 2019 7:00AM – 7:00PM

COLLIN COUNTY voters may vote at any of these locations on Election Day.

DALLAS COUNTY voters must vote at their specific voting location for Election Day (look up).


Richardson Candidate Questionnaire on Environmental Issues

This questionnaire was created by Texas Campaign for the Environment Fund (TCE Fund) and our Richardson supporters in order to provide the public with direct responses from Richardson city council candidates on important environmental topics. Some candidates did not respond to the questionnaire.

1. Richardson’s recycling rates are low and contamination is a problem. As the “Technology Corridor city,” we should be better than this. Would you, as a city council member, be willing to advocate for a comprehensive solid waste plan, similar to plans in Dallas and Fort Worth, which would greatly reduce landfill waste from residential, commercial, and multi-family properties?

Bob Dubey (P1) – No response.

Jason Clarke (P1) – No response.

Mark Solomon (P2) –  The rate of re-cycling in Richardson has continued to improve over the years. As a member of Council, I am very supportive of our efforts in this area and we are constantly reviewing our plans to improve both participation and contamination issues. We have a comprehensive solid waste plan and continue to work to reduce the tonnage to the landfill.



Dan Barrios (P3) – It is shocking to know that only roughly 20% of Richardson residents currently take advantage of recycling. First, we need to educate our residents on the benefits of recycling and expand the access for everyone so it’s easier. If elected, I would go directly to multi-family homes and find ways to partner with them to encourage recycling. Finally, I would work with our neighborhoods to find the “trash hotspots” that the city needs to address and encourage community members to work together to help maintain the beauty of our great city.

Franklin Byrd (P3) – I understand that the City of Richardson already has a comprehensive solid waste plan. If elected, I would support efforts to continue looking at ways to increase recycling participation and decrease tonnage going to landfills.



Janet Depuy (P3) – I’m not yet familiar with Dallas/Ft. Worth’s comprehensive solid waste plan. I would, however, like for Richardson to increase its recycle participation. It’s so easy to do and Richardson provides free recycle bags for every household! In another questionnaire I suggested that perhaps Richardson could do a targeted campaign to get more participation here. They do have the shredding and electronics recycle programs – coming soon in fact. And that event has a huge participation!


Kyle Kepner (P4) – We obviously need more education when it comes to the public knowledge of recycling. I would like to see the programs expanded to multifamily and corporate locations. I have no problem copying other successful programs to raise the participation rate.



Johnny Lanzillo (P4) –  I want to expand our education on the city’s recycling program. Not only to better educate on contamination, but to increase participation. I’d also like to see the program expanded to city and neighborhood parks, and apartment complexes. The best goal would be zero waste. I don’t think Richardson is close to that yet though.


Raymond DeGuzman, Sr. (P4) – No response.

Ken Hutchenrider (P5) –  As a family that recycles I am unsure why rates are so low.  I believe the first step that needs to occur is a listening tour of residents to better understand why residents in Richardson do not recycle.  Once we learn the reasons, then a plan can be created which will be very effective for Richardson and our environment.  I do not want to cookie cutter a solid waste plan from another City as I believe Richardson is unique and we need to listen first and then develop plans after.  Components of other City’s plans may be useful as examples but I would want to see a plan created by Richardson for Richardson.

Mauri Long (P5) – I agree that with all the technology based in Richardson, our city should be at the forefront of combining economic development, environmental stewardship and fiscal responsibility. Richardson can implement wheeled carts for trash pickup and recycling. The city can also create recycling drop-off sites that would target multi-family residences. I support the 2040 initiative for zero waste initiative because I want to see the city that I love create an environment for our kids that we are raising here.


Steve Mitchell (P6) – No response.

Paul Voelker (P7) – No response.

2. In an effort to improve the quality of life, pedestrian mobility, air emissions and reduce wear and tear on streets in Richardson, would you be willing to pursue the addition of protected bike lanes to appropriate roadways and create a short, medium and long term plan to achieve this?

Bob Dubey (P1) – No response.

Jason Clarke (P1) – No response.

Mark Solomon (P2) –  We are a bike friendly city and I am always open to ways to improve mobility within the City.

Dan Barrios (P3) – I feel very strongly about this topic and am a huge proponent of making Richardson as bike friendly as possible. My campaign has recently been in contact with Bike Friendly Richardson and I look forward to meeting with them to learn more about their ideas. As a councilman, I would not only push for more bike lanes, but let’s be smarter about how and where we put them. For example, we need to consider safety — simply put, potholes and sidewalks need to be a higher priority. Further, I would introduce the “RIDE” Richardson concept. RIDE would examine connecting our neighborhoods and parks to economic centers via designated biking and walking paths. One example would be connecting Huffines Park, Berkner Park and the surrounding neighborhoods to Richardson Square. This is good for our environment and our economy.

Franklin Byrd (P3) – I would be willing to pursue the addition of protected bike lanes where appropriate. I live directly off a major cut through street in Richardson where bike lanes have been added and I’ve seen the positive benefits from protected bike lanes. Additionally, I’m a long-distance runner and regularly share the roadways with bikes and motor vehicles which can be very dangerous. Protected bike lanes provide safely to bikers and runners.

Janet Depuy (P3) – We do have some protected bike lanes through Richardson, but probably not enough. I do know that we’re trying to make more development/redevelopment areas more pedestrian and bike friendly (Main Street area for instance). And best of all — at least Richardson does have 4 DART stations, more than any other suburb and soon to come Cotton Belt Rail Line. I would like to know more about how many cyclists are using the bike lanes, where they would want more, what areas are we missing, etc.? It’s probably a subject worth looking into. Honestly, I’d like to get more people to use DART, especially if they work in downtown Dallas.

Kyle Kepner (P4) – I think when we do these new developments protected bike lanes should be considered.

Johnny Lanzillo (P4) –  Yes, I think protected bike lanes have a ton of advantages. I want the city to continue to look at pedestrian and bike friendly developments. The innovation district is a good start.  I think making sure we have affordable housing in Richardson is another important factor in limiting vehicle emissions and wear and tear on the roads so that employees aren’t commuting from other areas of the metroplex.

Raymond DeGuzman, Sr. (P4) – No response.

Ken Hutchenrider (P5) –  I am very willing to pursue additional bike lanes where it makes sense and does not create further transportation issues in our Community.  I do believe this will need to be a multi year plan developed after a good review of current lane availability and listening to our community as to their needs and concerns.

Mauri Long (P5) –  Research on bike lanes show that many people would like to bike more, but don’t because of their concern for safety. Protected lanes create the environment that will help change that behavior. With designated bike lanes, Richardson would be promoting safe cycling and define road space for bikes and cars, and creates a more orderly flow of traffic. I believe continuing to build on the lanes that our city has installed, would be a positive direction for Richardson.

Steve Mitchell (P6) – No response.

Paul Voelker (P7) – No response.

3. Air quality in Richardson is often listed by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as unhealthy, especially in the hotter months. Increasing pollution in the region is worsening air quality and driving climate change. Dallas is pursuing the development of a climate action plan which includes a greenhouse gas inventory and air quality monitoring to address local air concerns. If elected, would you support additional air quality monitoring, a greenhouse gas inventory, and climate action plan for Richardson?

Bob Dubey (P1) – No response.

Jason Clarke (P1) – No response.

Mark Solomon (P2) – As I understand monitoring of Air Quality is a regional activity and NOT city specific. it is monitored for the entire 9 county area of North Texas. As a member of Council, I support our currents efforts in this arena.

Dan Barrios (P3) – Yes, because I want my son to have clean air today and tomorrow. I would not only look at air quality monitoring, but also ways we can improve it anyways. For example, if a homeowner invests in their home to be greener, let’s reward them with tax incentives. Secondly, I would push for more actions from the city — like adjusting our landscaping to be renewable and more cost effective in the long run.

Franklin Byrd (P3) – If elected, I would complete the required due diligence analysis to be properly educated on environmental issues such as these so that I could make intelligent decisions. Our environment is very precious to the generations to come and I would like to help to protect it.

Janet Depuy (P3) – Regarding your air quality question: We have three highly traveled and crowded highways surrounding Richardson: Hwy 75, I 635, and George Bush. Our population during the day is probably over 125,000 people. In addition we’re part of a huge metropolitan area. I don’t know yet what Richardson has done in the past or currently does to contribute to air quality monitoring in partnership with the rest of the region. I would need to know if what is already being done to monitor air quality is enough, or if it would be absolutely necessary for Richardson to do it’s own monitoring. I’m sure these tests come with costs and, if so, further investigation on need and cost would need to be done.

Kyle Kepner (P4) – I would not want to align with the City of Dallas because we don’t have any big offenders. In the long term we need to look at building up instead of out. Density helps with emissions and when building up you can implement more greenspace.

Johnny Lanzillo (P4) –  I would certainly support any plans of action brought before council that improve our air and our environment. I want this to be a city my son can raise a family in one day. If we don’t work to improve the air quality, he may not have that opportunity.

Raymond DeGuzman, Sr. (P4) – No response.

Ken Hutchenrider (P5) –   Overall I am unclear as to the effect the City of Richardson and its citizens are to the environmental issues in our area.  I would want to better understand this by listening to our residents and determine what we need to do to effect the issue based on our contribution to it.  City resources are not unlimited and I would want to ensure that additional measures placed on the City would be proportional to our contribution to the issue.  I am not opposed to doing our fair share but would not want to have this be a major budget cost if our effect is smaller than other cities.  I believe other infrastructure issues would need to be the priority.

Mauri Long (P5) –  I support new actions in Richardson that would include removing more old vehicles from the road, more electric vehicles in the city’s fleet, more solar panels on buildings to reduce burning fossil fuels for electricity and help for people with asthma.

Steve Mitchell (P6) – No response.

Paul Voelker (P7) – No response.