Tires will remain a problem in Texas

Tires will remain a problem in Texas after Governor Abbott decided to veto SB570. The bill, authored by Sen. José Rodríguez (D-El Paso) was set to fix many of the problems associated with the state’s current scrap tire disposal process and received broad bipartisan and stakeholder support.

Today, the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has identified about 16 million tires illegally dumped lying around the state and estimates Texas generates 36 million tires per year (about 1.5 tires per person). This usually wouldn’t be a huge problem, if our tires ended up where they belonged.

But because of multiple government inefficiencies that were the result of a previously sunsetted recycling program, disposed tires often end up in rivers, streams, ditches, or on personal property in Texas. These tires, just because of their weighty nature, are costly to dispose of properly. Additionally, the longer tires sit in fields, the more these piles become homes for wild hogs, rats, or Zika-carrying mosquitoes. In worst-case scenarios, heat or arson can cause catastrophic fires  like this recent tire fire in Odessa. These fires are costly, dirty, dangerous, and hard to extinguish.

SB 570 would have fixed three major problems in the disposal process: prevention, tracking and enforcement. Surprising to most, “scrap” or unusable, used tires have some value in Mexico where they can be reused or burnt as tire-derived fuel at a higher profit. Bad actors drive around and steal piles of unsecured scrap tires left outside of dealerships. These stolen tires are often then rummaged through for salvageability, but a portion of tires often end up dumped on land, lakes or streams at the cost of the community or private property owner. SB 570 mandated — with the full support of several tire dealership associations — tires be kept under lock and key to help prevent this theft and illegal dumping from occurring.

The bill would also have updated how state agencies track scrap tires, from the time a person drops it off until it ends up in a landfill or recycled. No surprise to most,  inefficient systems and a lack of enforcement has played a large part in the prevalence of Texas scrap tire disposal problem. SB 570 sought to fix these problems by requiring scrap tire transporters to register annually with the TCEQ and switching a previous hand-written record keeping system to an electronic one. Without a reliable tracking system, the scrap tire disposal process becomes a system easy to launder money through, in addition to the obvious solid waste disposal problems.

But most importantly, SB 570 increased enforcement and liability to those who wished to operate outside of laws and regulations. Those who illegal dumped would have been fined $500 a day. Considering that Dallas spent $3.3 million in taxpayers’ dollars pulling tires out of the Trinity River, we feel like the fine is beyond responsible.

We will be continually trying to push for legislation to fix this broken system because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (and is often so much cheaper too). Unfortunately, Governor Abbott vetoed this bill because, “Senate Bill 570 criminalizes the violation of administrative rules governing the proper disposal of tires.  In order to know whether their handling of used tires is a crime or not, Texans would have to consult the Texas Register and the actions of local governments on a regular basis to ensure the rules governing tire disposal have not changed.  Surely there are better ways to address the problem of old tires than by creating a new and vaguely defined crime.”

We think this is a pretty large overstatement and are unclear on what major rule changes would affect the broader public.