New State Environment Commissioner Wants to Streamline Beauracracy

The newest member of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is no stranger to issues facing the region. Houston Public Radio’s Pat Hernandez reports.

As one of three full time commissioners appointed by the governor, Dr Byran Shaw is the youngest, but his credentials are impressive. He left the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department at Texas A&M, where many of his courses focused on air pollution engineering. He wants to keep the science at the core of agency direction and policy. Dr Shaw says the Commission must ensure the madate of the protection of the public and the environment. He calls it a delicate balance.

“If we go too far one way or the other, we get neither. And so, I think that they’re not mutually exclusive. I think if we work diligently and find sophisticated processes and approaches, we can have both the environment that we want…as well as a strong economy of businesses to help us get there. And so, I’m committed to looking at the science and making sure that all the decisions I make are based on where the science would lead. So yes, the balance is not just a good buzz word, it’s also a good guiding principal.”

Commissioner Shaw wants to streamline beauracracy which will aid in compliance. He’s looking for ways to have policy, the permitting process, compliance and penalty structured to encourage industry to want to comply.

“We want to make sure that they realize that one, it’s in their best interest to comply, and that if they are bad actors, a word I like to use, that they’ll be consequences for that…if they make good faith efforts to comply, that that’s a smoother path to take.”

He says it’s important to have policy that will constantly be evaluated to answer the question of meeting the goal of compliance.

Craig Beskid, who chairs the clean air committee of the Greater Houston Partnership, says he likes what he’s hearing from the Commissioner.

“I think that’s exactly the right goal to have as a commissioner for the TCEQ because we all live and we live based not only what we do in the environment but what we do in our business lives and we have to balance those things. To see someone who is grounded in the sciences and has had the interface between policy makers and regulators, because there is often a disconnect there, policy makers often need an answer today, researchers often want to study one today, tomorrow and the next day. And to bring those two skills together so that those communities can come together for a better environment I think is absolutely the right focus for the agency.”

Beskid says Commissioner Shaw’s inexperience is quickly dissipated with his enthusiasm and it aids to move the TCEQ’s agenda foward for the protection of public health in this region.

Pat Hernandez, Houston Public Radio News.