Protecting the environment in the solid waste industry in Texas by working for superior environmental practices and regulation.
TJFA Business Model
TJFA, L.P. (TJFA) makes long-term real estate investments utilizing a specific business model. The strategy involved in the TJFA model is to acquire properties adjacent to and proximate to solid waste processing and disposal facilities and then to benefit from the rental and sale of such properties as their values increase. Properties adjacent to or near municipal solid waste (MSW) facilities are sometimes undervalued, especially when the particular MSW facility is poorly operated, has a permit that has not been reviewed in many years, or has a history of causing nuisance conditions such as odors, windblown trash, grandfathered conditions, etc. As with most real estate investments, the value of these properties should increase over time along with the general economy. In addition, if the property is located near a poorly run landfill, but then the landfill performance significantly improves due to the adherence or enforcement of applicable regulations, the value of the property should increase at a greater rate since the property will be more attractive for commercial and residential uses.
A key component of the TJFA model is that the nearby MSW facility must be well managed and operate in compliance with applicable regulations. Both the integrity of the state’s regulatory permitting process and the state’s enforcement of environmental regulations are critical components of the TJFA business model. For this reason TJFA is actively involved with MSW permit applications and regulatory matters that concern the nearby MSW facility. At a minimum the facility must meet relevant permitting and operational requirements specified in federal and state MSW regulations. If the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and/or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) require permit revisions to meet applicable state and federal regulations and enforce the provisions consistent with the law, the operation of the facility should not adversely impact its neighbors. Property values should then appreciate in a manner unimpeded by the operation of the well designed and properly operated solid waste processing and disposal facility.
TJFA Supports Its Neighbors
TJFA supports the rights of affected persons to be heard before the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) and to not be arbitrarily discriminated against just for questioning whether a permit application meets the requirements of state and federal law or whether the TCEQ has adequately performed its statutory duties. One role of TJFA in this context is to review public documents filed with the TCEQ to help insure that applications for a landfill permit or amendments and modifications to an existing permit meet applicable state and federal requirements. TJFA assists neighboring landowners and the public in general by critically examining permit applications and identifying areas that fail to meet regulatory standards and then by participating alongside the neighboring landowners in the SOAH hearings process.
On five occasions, when facility owners and/or operators have applied for landfill permit amendments and TJFA has determined that the permit application did not meet basic regulatory compliance, TJFA has sought and has been named a party to contested case hearing proceedings as an affected person by virtue of its ownership of properties in the vicinity of the regulated landfill facilities. Through its participation in contested case hearing proceedings, TJFA has pointed out the previously identified deficiencies in permit applications that were not recognized by TCEQ during the permit application review process, and presented evidence of such deficiencies to the SOAH Administrative Law Judge. However, TJFA has only challenged permit revisions which its regulatory experts feel do not meet the state and federal requirements. For example, TJFA did not challenge a Waste Management of Texas, Inc. (WMTX) landfill expansion permit amendment in San Antonio (the Covel Gardens Landfill) that is adjacent to TJFA’s property because TJFA’s experts, at that time, felt WMTX’s proposal met the applicable regulatory requirements.
TJFA’s Perspective on Permit Applications
TJFA’s position on landfill permit applications is that if the permit application meets federal and state regulatory requirements, the facility can be managed as a good neighbor and the permit application should be approved; but, if the permit application does not meet the minimum state and federal regulatory requirements, the application should be revised accordingly or denied. Well-connected lobbyists and lawyers hired by applicants should not be utilized as a vehicle for securing the approval of permits that do not meet applicable federal and state regulatory requirements. These permit applications and their applicants should be required to withstand scrutiny in a contested case hearing process. If the permit applications are deficient, they should be required to meet regulatory requirements even when the facility neighbors lack the resources and access to the expertise needed to protect their interests. Permit applicants who submit permit applications and permit amendments which meet regulatory compliance requirements have nothing to be concerned about by TJFA owning property nearby.
It has been alleged by some that TJFA is simply a front for Texas Disposal Systems Landfill, Inc. (TDSL) to oppose the landfill applications of competitors. These claims are no doubt based on the fact that Bob Gregory is the owner of TJFA, and is also the principal owner of Texas Disposal Systems, Inc. (TDS) and TDSL. However, this is no secret, and Bob Gregory fully disclosed his relationship with TJFA, TDS and TDSL from TJFA’s initial permit amendment challenge on October 26, 2006. Any claim that TJFA is a valid competitive front is in error and ignores the true purpose of TJFA, as described above. It also seems to be a standard practice for an applicant to cry “competition” when deficiencies are identified in a municipal solid waste (MSW) permit application when all the applicant is being asked to do is to follow the rules applicable to that MSW landfill facility.
In seeking and gaining party status to landfill permit application proceedings, TJFA has gone on record regarding its business activity, its purpose in seeking party status, and its relationship to Bob Gregory, TDS and TDSL. For example, in a filing for the BFI (a.k.a. Republic Services, Inc.) Sunset Farms Landfill permit amendment expansion application, a representative of TJFA, Dennis Hobbs, stated: “TJFA is a separate legal entity created under the laws of Texas. TJFA is not a competitor of BFI. TJFA is not in the landfill, waste hauling or recycling business, nor does it own land or authorizations directly related to these businesses. TJFA invests in real estate near landfills, including the TDS landfill. TJFA derives rental income from its properties. Neither Mr. [Bob] Gregory nor myself have attempted to conceal our relationship with any of these companies or that TJFA is managed out of an office managed by TDS.”
By seeking to participate in SOAH cases resulting from original applications or landfill expansion applications filed at TCEQ, TJFA is simply exercising its legal right, along with other affected persons, to insure that MSW permit applications comply with state and federal regulatory requirements. Further, permit applications will no doubt improve simply because applicants and the TCEQ will know that this landowner is prepared to retain the required expertise to review the application and will challenge the application if it is found to be deficient.
In no contested case hearing to date has TJFA been the only affected person requesting party status to challenge the conformity of the permit revisions with the applicable regulatory requirements. For example, TCEQ granted requests from approximately 41 persons, including TJFA, for party status in the SOAH hearing for the BFI (a.k.a. Republic Services, Inc.) Sunset Farms Landfill permit amendment application to expand its landfill east of Austin in Travis County.4 Furthermore, there were other protestants in all of the other contested case hearing proceedings in which TJFA has participated. The identities of each of these protestants are included in the extensive filing for each of these permit hearings contained within the TJFA website.
For More Information
TJFA believes that fair and equitable decisions should be made by TCEQ and SOAH, which are consistent with state law and established precedent. The website, www.TJFAonline.com, has been established as a resource library for public officials, state and federal regulatory agencies, and for members of the public who are interested in knowing how the TCEQ, SOAH, and certain applicants conduct their business relative to these specific permit application and permit amendments, and the basis for TJFA’s involvement.
For further information about TJFA and its interest in encouraging the TCEQ, SOAH, the U.S. EPA and the Environmental Protection and Administrative Law Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office to hold all solid waste processing and disposal facility permit applicants to at least the same minimum regulatory requirements, please send inquiries to: Dennis@TJFA-LP.com.