SENATE COMMITTEE ON NOMINATIONS
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
11:00 a.m. or upon adjournment
Pursuant to a notice posted in accordance with Senate Rule 11.18, a public hearing of the Senate Committee on Nominations was held on Wednesday, March 7, 2007, in the Senate Chamber at Austin, Texas.
Senator Mike Jackson
Senator Kevin Eltife
Senator Glenn Hegar
Senator Jane Nelson
Senator Robert Nichols
Senator Eliot Shapleigh
Senator Kirk Watson
The chair called the meeting to order at 2:10 p.m. There being a quorum present, the following business was transacted:
The following members arrived after the roll was called: Senator Hegar, Senator Nelson, and Senator Watson.
Chairman Jackson announced that Jay Kimbrough, Special Master for the Texas Youth Commission, would not be testifying in front of the Nominations Committee. Instead, Kimbrough would appear before the Joint Select Committee on the Operation and Management of the Texas Youth Commission the following day.
Chairman Jackson announced that 25 nominees and one pending nominee would be on the agenda for the hearing.
Chairman Jackson called Patrick Gordon, appointee to the Rio Grande Compact Commission, to the table. Jackson recognized Senator Shapleigh to introduce Gordon to the committee.
Chairman Jackson recognized Gordon for opening comments. Gordon thanked Senator Shapleigh for his passion and the work that he has done for El Paso.
Chairman Jackson questioned Gordon about water fights in El Paso and which side of the warring parties he might be on. Gordon responded that most of the water fights have been resolved. He said that his role is to be the intermediary between districts to work out their issues. Gordon explained the Rio Grande Compact and his role as a member of the commission.
Chairman Jackson asked if the commission is involved in local water disputes. In response, Gordon said that the primary role of the commission is to ensure that water gets to Texas.
Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Shapleigh. Senator Shapleigh expressed his concerns about the impact of climate change on the Rio Grande river. Gordon said that the river has definitely suffered in recent years, but that the commission is working to improve those conditions. Gordon said that a study on climate change would be quite beneficial and would hopefully teach consumers to conserve more water.
Senator Shapleigh moved that the nomination of Patrick Gordon be confirmed by the committee. At 2:18 p.m., by a vote of 5 ayes and 0 nays, the committee voted to recommend Patrick Gordon to the full Senate for confirmation.
Chairman Jackson called Buddy Garcia, appointee as one of the Commissioners of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, to the table. Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Lucio to introduce Garcia to the committee. Senator Lucio highly recommended Garcia for confirmation.
Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Estes. Senator Estes expressed his support for Buddy Garcia to the committee.
Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Watson to introduce his constituent, Buddy Garcia.
Chairman Jackson recognized Garcia for opening comments. Garcia addressed the committee and briefly explained his past, his professional experience, and his goals if confirmed as one of the Commissioners of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Chairman Jackson asked Garcia about his perception on how the agency is running. Garcia said that once a complete commission is achieved, he believes the agency will run very efficiently. Chairman Jackson asked Garcia about the two current commissioners and whether or not they are struggling to get things done. Garcia said that the state will be better served with three commissioners serving at the agency. He plans to change any negative perceptions.
Chairman Jackson questioned Garcia about a lawsuit concerning the disposal of hazardous waste. Chairman Jackson expressed his concern that the issue still has not been settled after three years. He said that he is hopeful that Garcia will make the necessary changes to the commission. Garcia said that, if confirmed, he would take Senator Jackson's concerns very seriously.
Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Nelson. Senator Nelson thanked Garcia for his willingness to serve in such an important position. Senator Nelson asked Garcia what factors he would consider when building new coal and nuclear plants in Texas. Nelson asked if nuclear plants are a more reasonable alternative to coal plants. Garcia said that he will be interested in legislative direction, along with other factors, to make the necessary decisions in that area.
Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Watson. Senator Watson and Garcia discussed permit applications. Garcia said that he will follow the law in issuing permits. Garcia pledged that he will take whatever amount of time is needed to make the right decisions in issuing permits.
Senator Watson and Garcia discussed the authority of a TCEQ Commissioner in making decisions about the state's energy sources. Garcia said that the primary mission of the TCEQ is to protect the state's natural resources.
Senator Watson and Garcia discussed air transport. In response to a question from Watson, Garcia said that the agency should take into account all cumulative effects.
Senator Watson and Garcia discussed the best available patrol technologies. Garcia said that he will utilize his discretion to take in a broader analysis of the best available patrol technologies if warranted.
Senator Watson asked Garcia about penalties. Garcia responded that he wishes to go against violators in the appropriate manner. Watson asked if the economic benefit should play a role in the assessment of a penalty.
Watson asked Garcia if the state should regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Garcia said that the federal government should regulate the emissions first. He said that if not illegal now, it will be very soon.
Senator Watson and Garcia discussed global warming and whether or not TCEQ should be involved in the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions. Garcia said that he will follow the law, but that the law does not address that at this time. Senator Watson read from the Health and Safety Code. Garcia said that the statement seemed to give TCEQ sufficient discretion to address a special program related to emissions.
Garcia told the committee that he is open to ideas at any time and that he plans on having an open-door policy.
Chairman Jackson and Senator Watson discussed the statement from the Health and Safety Code. Senator Watson said that the TCEQ should have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions that relate to climactic changes including global warming.
Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Shapleigh. Senator Shapleigh read from the mission statement for the TCEQ and asked Garcia if he embraces the goals of the agency. Garcia said that yes, he agrees with the mission statement. Senator Shapleigh said that there is a disconnect between the TCEQ mission statement, what the law is, and how the law is enforced.
Senator Shapleigh brought up the subject of air permits. Garcia said that he will make his decisions about air permits based on the law, good science, facts, and his good judgment. Garcia pledged that he will give due diligence in issuing air permits to make sure that they meet the law.
Senator Shapleigh asked Garcia about the renewal of air permits and how Garcia plans to approve them. Garcia said that he is not advised at this time about how those grandfather permits would be renewed. In response to a question from Shapleigh, Garcia said that the health and safety of consumers should be a factor in issuing grandfather permits.
Shapleigh distributed a New York Times article to the committee. Senator Shapleigh asked Garcia what he would do if a violation of the law occurred in the agency. Garcia said that he would take that very seriously. If the facts warranted it, he would issue an investigation.
Senator Shapleigh told the committee about a sulfur dioxide issue in El Paso. Garcia pledged that he will personally travel to El Paso if he is needed there.
Senator Shapleigh said that his people have lost faith in TCEQ. Shapleigh asked Garcia what he will do to clean up that perception. Garcia said that he will work with his other commissioners to change that perception. If a new approach is required to regain the confidence of Texas, Garcia said that he will seek that approach.
Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Nichols. Senator Nichols thanked Garcia for his willingness to take on this job.
Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Hegar. Senator Hegar said that he hopes that Garcia will strike a common sense balance when protecting resources and following the law. He does not want individuals in Texas to be overburdened.
Senator Hegar told Garica that it is not the role of TCEQ to pass their issues to the courts, but to make sure that those issues get resolved. Senator Hegar told Garcia that he should take due diligence to learn the issues in order to avoid making hasty decisions.
Chairman Jackson told Garcia that he will have many challenges and responsibilities ahead of him. He explained that Garcia will be receiving extensive legislative direction.
Chairman Jackson recognized Judge Jan A. Roe from Robertson County to testify in favor of the confirmation of Buddy Garcia.
Senator Eltife moved that the nomination of Buddy Garcia be confirmed by the committee. At 3:28 p.m., by a vote of 7 ayes and 0 nays, the committee voted to recommend Buddy Garcia to the full Senate for confirmation.
Senator Hegar moved that the committee vote on the non-appearing nominees to the following entities: Canadian River Compact Commission, Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists, Judicial Districts Board, Lavaca-Navidad River Authority, Manufactured Housing Board, Texas Board of Physical Therapy Examiners, Texas Real Estate Commission, Real Estate Research Advisory Committee, Rio Grande Regional Water Authority. At 3:30 p.m., by a vote of 7 ayes and 0 nays, the nominees were sent to the full Senate for confirmation.
There being no further business, at 3:30 p.m. Senator Jackson moved that the Committee stand recessed subject to the call of the chair. Without objection, it was so ordered.
Senator Mike Jackson, Chair
Katherine Chapman, Clerk