HBA-RBT C.S.H.B. 2901 76(R)BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisC.S.H.B. 2901 By: Counts Natural Resources 4/29/1999 Committee Report (Substituted) BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) adopted a new set of rules regarding the Edwards Aquifer on September 23, 1998. The effective date for these rules is June 1, 1999. The rules are divided into two parts: Subchapter A concerns the Edwards Aquifer in Medina, Bexar, Comal, Kinney, Uvalde, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties and applies to all regulated developments in the "recharge zone"; Subchapter B applies to the "contributing zone" in these same counties. The recharge zone has been regulated since the mid-1980s; therefore, the new rules amend existing regulations. However, the contributing zone had not been regulated until these rules were adopted in September. Due to concerns from the real estate industry, TNRCC specifically set June 1, 1999, as the effective date for the new rules in order to allow for legislative input. According to the real estate industry, several outstanding issues remain regarding the rules, including the possible lack of scientific data for the new requirements, duplication of the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program and the negative impact of the rules on housing affordability. C.S.H.B. 2901 creates an interim select committee comprised of representatives from the regulated counties. Members include engineers, developers, city officials, builders, and TNRCC staff. This bill gives the committee specific direction for their study of the rules. The committee is responsible for issuing a report to the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker, and TNRCC. A moratorium on enforcement of the rules is in effect until the report of the committee is complete. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that rulemaking authority is expressly delegated to the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission in SECTION 1 (Section 26.0462, Water Code) of this bill. SECTION BY SECTION ANALYSIS SECTION 1. Amends Subchapter B, Chapter 26, Water Code, by adding Sections 26.0462 and 26.0463, as follows: Sec. 26.0462. PROTECTION OF WATER QUALITY IN EDWARDS AQUIFER REGION. Defines "contributing zone," "Edwards Aquifer," "Edwards Aquifer region," "recharge zone," and "transition zone." Requires the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (commission) to adopt and enforce rules regarding construction-related activity on the recharge zone that has the potential for polluting the Edwards Aquifer and hydrologically connected surface streams in order to protect existing and potential uses of groundwater and maintain state water quality standards, regarding certain construction, clearing, excavation, installation, or other activities that may contaminate the Edwards Aquifer and hydrologically connected surface streams. Provides that the commission is not required to adopt rules regarding certain other activities. Prohibits the commission from enforcing or acting on a rule, order, interpretation, decision, or opinion until after January 1, 2000, regarding an activity that was adopted, issued, or made by the commission after January 1, 1998. Sec. 26.0463. SELECT COMMITTEE ON REGULATION OF EDWARDS AQUIFER. Defines "Edwards Aquifer region." Requires the commission to convene a select committee on the Edwards Aquifer region to study the need for and potential effectiveness, efficiency, and economic effects of rules adopted by the commission that have not taken effect as of January 1, 1999, that apply to activities subject to commission regulation under Section 26.0462. Sets forth the makeup of the committee. Requires the entities entitled to make appointments to the committee to make the appointments within 30 days of the effective date of this Act. Requires the committee to hold its first meeting not later than the 60th date after this section takes effect. Requires the members of the committee to elect a presiding officer at the first meeting of the committee. Authorizes the committee to seek the input of the governor, lieutenant governor, or speaker of the house of representatives at any time. Provides that a member of the committee is not entitled to compensation or to reimbursement for expenses. Requires the committee to meet at least once each month and at the call of the presiding officer. Requires the committee to report the conclusions of the study made under this section by December 31, 1999, to the governor, the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the commission. Provides that Section 26.0463 expires January 1, 2000. SECTION 2. Emergency clause. Effective date: upon passage. COMPARISON OF ORIGINAL TO SUBSTITUTE In SECTION 1, the substitute differs from the original by redesignating the contents of SECTIONS 1-6 of the original, as well as a new portion which defines terms, and gives rulemaking authority to the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, as new sections to be added to Chapter 26 of the Water Code. The substitute differs from the original in SECTION 1 by requiring the commission, rather than the governor, to convene the committee. The substitute differs from the original in SECTION 1 by requiring the committee appointments to be made by certain entities, rather than by the governor. The substitute provides that proposed Section 26.0463, Water Code, expires and the committee it creates is abolished, January 1, 2000. The original bill provided that the Act expired May 31, 2000. The substitute differs from the original by conforming to Legislative Council format. SECTION 7 (emergency clause) of the original is redesignated as SECTION 2 of the substitute.