Public Interest Counsel Office Examined at Joint Legislative Hearing
The Joint Committee on the Office of Natural Resources Public Interest Counsel held its first meeting today, Monday, April 1, 2003. The committee will be examining the office of Public Interest Counsel at the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC).
Only invited testimony was heard today. The first witness was Joe Walraven, Policy Director of the Sunset Advisory Commission who gave a history of the TNRCC Public Interest Counsel Debate from the 2000 Sunset Commission hearings. He also mentioned that the agency has not had time to completely implement the changes ordered by the Legislature during the last session. Duncan Norton and Blas Coy, TNRCC General Counsel followed, speaking on how the various offices at the agency are used to help members of the public in their appearances before the commission.
A panel made up of people who have appeared before the TNRCC followed. Mary Kelley of the Texas Center for Policy Studies said that while the public counsel is useful, that it could be more effective if given the right to appeal certain cases. Reggie James from Consumers Union said the Public Counsel's office has made for better quality decisions on the part of the commission. Jon Fisher from the Texas Chemical Council said "we might be better served increasing the resources of the agency." Attorney John Riley, the former director of the TNRCC Litigation Division Office of Legal Services also testified.
The committee is chaired by Senator J.E. "Buster" Brown and State Representative Fred Bosse. Members include Senators Gonzalo Barrientos, David Bernsen, Chris Harris, and Leticia Van de Putte, along with Representatives Warren Chisum, Dawanna Dukes, Robert Puente and D.R. "Tom" Uher. The committee recessed with its next meeting scheduled for May 20 at 10:00 a.m..