One of the common themes on the RECES blog so far has been the importance of proactively maintaining compliance and performing self-audits to avoid enforcement. In our experience over the years, the companies that do so, fare much better in the sea of regulations than those that don’t. Today we are going to talk about the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)’s Environmental Health and Safety Audit Privilege Act.

In 1995, the Texas Environmental, Health, and Safety Audit Privilege Act, or the Audit Act, was approved and provides certain immunities from administrative or civil penalties for any violations disclosed and corrected within a reasonable amount of time. The immunities are voided, however, if the entity fails to take appropriate action to maintain compliance.

The Audit Act provides three types of notices: a Notice of Audit, a Disclosure of Violation, and a Request for Extension. Under the Audit Act, certain documents and information gathered as part of an environmental self-audit are privileged from disclosure. The Audit Act also provides certain immunities from administrative or civil penalties for violations voluntarily disclosed and corrected within a reasonable amount of time.

RECES recently conducted a multimedia site audit in Texas under the Audit Privilege Act.  The compliance audit included air, water, and waste permit validations as well as all review of all historical regulatory documents and records. Our team worked on-site with plant personnel to coordinate the audit schedule and goals. A comprehensive dynamic task list was developed to include detailed findings and schedule of corrective actions. All audit activities were documented and along with legal collaborations, were disclosure to TCEQ as required.

Numerous violations were identified and an active corrective actions plan was developed. The plant is currently operating in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations applicable to its operations. Furthermore, regulatory compliance tools were developed along with scheduled task calendar to maintain adequate records and satisfy reporting requirements.

If you have questions or comments regarding the Audit Act, or if your facility or company is considering invoking it, please feel free to contact Kevin Moin by email at or by phone at (281) 529-5087.

Together we can maintain regulatory compliance!

Two of the terms I’ve heard on a consistent basis in the regulatory and compliance industry have been particulate matter (PM) and dust. I personally have had a little confusion with the two terms as they have been interchangeable in some situations but not in others. With today’s post, I want to dive into particulate matter and dust and analyze the differences.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clearly defines PM as a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. The EPA splits PM into two categories, 10 micrometers and 2.5 micrometers. PM10 is defined as inhalable particles with diameters below 10 micrometers, and PM2.5 is defined as fine inhalable particles with diameters below 2.5 micrometers. For reference, a single piece of human hair is about 70 micrometers and the human eye cannot see particles smaller than about 40 micrometers.

Particulate matter can be created by many different sources with some of the most common being construction sites, unpaved roads, complex chemical reactions, and smokestacks. The EPA strictly regulates PM like the othercriteria air pollutantsbecause of the danger to public health.

PM10 can get deep into your lungs and bloodstream, potentially causing serious health problems. PM2.5 is responsible for haze or reduced visibility in many parts of the country. California, for example, contains some of the worst smog levels in the country. Three counties in California, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, and Madera, have the worst smog levels in the country and eight of the ten top cities in the U.S. with the highest concentrations of PM2.5 are in.

A spike is defined as a time when PM2.5 concentration rises above the limit set by the EPA for acceptably healthy air. California, unfortunately, also contains 6 of the top 10 cities in the U.S. for spikes. Bakersfield, in particular, is the most polluted city in America in terms of spikes and PM concentrations. This is aided by a high volume of oil and gas operations in the California Central Valley, where Bakersfield resides.

While PM is clearly defined, dust is a little more ambiguous. It has been used interchangeably by both air quality professionals and those outside the air quality community, however, they should not be interchangeable. All PM can be considered dust, however, not all dust can be considered PM. Dust consists of particles of all size, but particles above 10 micrometers in diameter do not pose a significant health risk as they are not inhalable. They are, however, more likely to be visible to the public.

It is not uncommon for site managers to receive complaints about pollution because of visible dust around their facility without PM monitors detecting anything. This problem should not be compounded by using the two terms interchangeably as one is regulated while one is not, and it is important to know the difference. This is especially important in areas like California’s Central Valley where PM levels have been consistently high.

The team at RECES is committed to providing the knowledge and expertise to navigate the sea of environmental regulations. If you have questions or comments regarding PM or any of the other criteria air pollutants, please feel free to contact Kevin Moin by email at or by phone at (281) 529-5087.

I think we all know the feeling of turning in a paper or a test in school only to realize you’ve made mistakes after the fact. This is especially discouraging if the mistake was a simple one. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to fix the mistake with no penalty after the deadline? This isn’t the case everywhere but fortunately, this is the case for some environmental reporting requirements.

Today we want to talk about Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) and Emissions Inventory (EI) submissions. The TRI is a federal reporting requirement that is managed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and EI is a state program managed by the State agency. TRI is due every year on July 1st for the previous calendar year, and EI’s are due in the first quarter for the previous calendar year (for example, in Texas the TCEQ EI is due on March 31st every year for the previous calendar year). Also, EI reporting is for all air pollutant emissions while TRI covers 595 specific chemicals and 32 chemical categoriesreleased to the environment in any media whether its air, water, soil, or waste.

SARA Title III is the federal regulation that encompasses the requirement for those who meet certain thresholds for chemicals specified in the regulation, and Form R’s are the forms used to report any releases to the environment. If the TRI thresholds are triggered, then TRI reporting is required to be submitted by July 1st for the previous calendar year.

Correctness is, of course, important, but don’t stress out too much about getting absolutely everything correct by the deadline. Do as much as you can by the deadline so you meet it, but keep in mind that you can make any required changes, additions, or deletions. The EPA allows changes to be made to your TRI for up to three years after submission.

On the EI side, sometime after the March 31st deadline the TCEQ will send you a report and show you what you submitted through STEERS and ask that everything be checked for correctness. This is a nice check made by TCEQ for any regulated entities under EI as TCEQ also allows revisions to be made after submittal. TCEQ will send a reminder in December to submit your EI by the deadline.

The idea is to make your submission by the deadline, along with all the necessary supporting data and calculations, then make adjustments after if needed.

If your facility is required to submit both an EI and TRI, ensure that all TRI chemicals in the  EI are speciated, then use this same data for your TRI’s air release portion. This will ensure consistency.  Keep in mind that the State will compare what the EPA-reported TRI with what is reported in the EI, and they will contact you if there are any discrepancies. In our experience at RECES, we’ve seen problems arise if EI and TRI are submitted by two different people or teams.

One of our clients in recent years approached us with a project to revise the past three years of TRI submittals as the client realized there were some errors.  We have also been involved in situations with clients where they have received letters from the TCEQ notifying our clients of discrepancies between their TRI and EI. We were called to go in and determine which one is correct, then update the incorrect submittal in order to rectify the situation.

If you think there may be a mistake on past TRI and EI submittals or if you need advice or questions answered about future submittals, the team at RECES would be happy to help. Please feel free to contact Kevin Moin by email at or by phone at (281) 529-5087.