Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee announced that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will investigate the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ)’s concrete batch permitting criteria and processes under federal civil rights laws.
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The EPA initiated the investigation in response to complaints submitted by the Harris County Attorney’s Office and Lone Star Legal Aid under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“The EPA stepping in and investigating Texas’s environmental agency is a big step in protecting people who live in Harris County from toxic pollution. Harris County is littered with concrete batch plants, and they’re primarily in Black and Brown communities. The people who live by these plants, including children, can face many health risks, including respiratory illness and cancer. We must do all we can to protect them," said Harris County Attorney Menefee.
"State leaders in Austin are supposed to keep communities safe from this toxic pollution. Yet time and again we see the state pass laws that make it easier to put polluting plants in our communities. And the Texas Commission on Environment Quality does nothing to stop it. I’m glad the EPA is stepping in where the state is dropping the ball.
Every resident in Harris County has the right to breathe clean air, regardless of their zip code.”
The complaints submitted by the County and Lone Star Legal Aid show that the TCEQ amended its Standard Permit for Concrete Batch Plants in the fall of 2021 yet failed to add a requirement that applicants show that particulate matter and crystalline silica emissions coming out of these plants will not be harmful to human health and the environment.
Additionally, the TCEQ excluded limited English proficient people in Harris County (most of whom speak Spanish) when it issued notices and collected community feedback during the public participation process for the standard permit amendment
The EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office will now investigate the complaints. ■