The Lone Star Current Interview

Emily Lindley, Commissioner

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

Governor Greg Abbott appointed Emily Lindley to serve as Commissioner for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on August 20, 2018. Before her appointment, Commissioner Lindley served as the Chief of Staff for the Enivonmental Protection Agency Region 6.

As Chief of Staff, she served as an advisor to the regional administrator who oversees Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and 66 tribal nations. Prior to her service at the EPA, she worked at the TCEQ for over ten years, most recently as the Special Assistant to the Deputy Executive Director. During her tenure, she also served as a Special Assistant to the Office of Water’s Deputy Director who oversees water permitting, water quality planning, and water supply related functions including Utilities and Districts for the state. In her role, she helped Texans understand the public participation process and answered questions about permitting issues. Commissioner Lindley was appointed to the Texas Environmental Flows Advisory Group by Gov. Abbott on Sept. 25, 2018. She is a member of the Austin Women’s Symphony League, the Baylor Women’s League of Austin, and a weekly driver for Meals on Wheels. Lindley received a Bachelor of Arts from Baylor University and completed the Governor’s Executive Development Program at The University of Texas at Austin L.B.J. School of Public Affairs in 2016.

The Lone Star Current recently had the opportunity to interview Emily Lindley, who graciously responded to our questions. We appreciate her willingness to take the time to share her unique perspective with our readers.

Lone Star Current: What do you believe are the most important aspects of your position as Commissioner at the TCEQ?

Lindley: The TCEQ is tasked with overseeing a wide variety of environmental issues in this state. Through this oversight, I strive to ensure that TCEQ abides by the applicable statutes in a uniform manner so that our rules are applied consistently and appropriately to all those regulated. Education and transparency are also very important to me. Many of the regulations we are delegated to oversee are complicated and nuanced. A priority of mine is to make sure the TCEQ does a great job of communicating effectively to the public and those doing business with us.

LSC: What do you view as the biggest challenges facing the TCEQ over the next few years?

Lindley: Social media – I see it as a blessing and a curse. Social media is a great tool TCEQ uses to its advantage and to get information out to those that want and need it quickly. For example, all of the Commissioners’ Agendas are streamed and posted on YouTube for any citizen in the state of Texas to watch. The other side of the coin is that social media can be used to spread inaccurate information very quickly. When inaccurate information gets out there, it takes substantial time and effort to respond. Not to mention that once wrong information is out there, it’s out there. Another challenge we face, and will continue to face, is retaining our employees. We have always had to compete with an ever-growing and ever competitive job market. However, as Texas diversifies, keeping and retaining top talent is becoming increasingly hard. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

LSC: What issues have been the most interesting that you have dealt with during your time at the TCEQ?

Lindley: In the short year-and-a-half I have been in this position, several high-profile issues have arisen that the TCEQ has had to react to. I could be naive in thinking this, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted that we would have seen the number of high-profile events in 2019 that we saw (not to mention the fact that our staff was analyzing and monitoring over 840 bills during some of these events). I am very proud of how we responded to these incidences and how we continue to improve and learn from those events. Going through confirmation was also an interesting process that I didn’t fully appreciate until I was before the Nominations Committee. There’s a lot of self-reflection that happens when you are having to go through that!

LSC: What facet of your job do you enjoy the most?

Lindley: First, let me start by saying that I am so fortunate to have been given this opportunity by Governor Abbott. Some of my most favorite memories throughout my career have involved this agency and the people working in it. Therefore, it was a huge honor to be considered and then confirmed as a Commissioner. Not to mention the fact that there are so many aspects of this job that I absolutely love! I have the good fortune of serving in a position where monotony does not exist. I am constantly learning. New challenges are always right around the corner and our agency is blessed with some of the nation’s leading experts in their field. Whether I am faced with a unique permitting matter, a new rule, or a policy decision, there is always something new to study and learn about. I also genuinely love getting to interact and engage with employees and the various stakeholders. Lastly, I love talking TCEQ budget to anyone that will listen (which typically only lasts a few minutes, since most of those conversations end when the other person falls asleep!).

LSC: Tell us something most people would be surprised to know about you.

Lindley: I am a proud member of the Roger Federer fan club and have been for a number of years.

LSC: If you weren’t serving in your current position, and it was possible to pursue any trade or profession, what would it be?

Lindley: In college, I had an internship with Hospice. I grew to love that work. If I were not in my current position, I would somehow be involved in that organization.

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