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Harris County Attorney Takes Action: Sues Texas’ Environmental Agency Over Concrete Batch Plant Rules

By Jo-Carolyn Goode

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    Feb. 22, 2024 (Houston Style Magazine) — Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee, alongside a coalition of Houston-area community groups, is taking a bold stand against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The lawsuit addresses the agency’s failure to enforce immediate compliance with its new standard permit for existing concrete batch plants, instead of granting a grace period of up to 10 years.

A Push for Environmental Accountability

County Attorney Menefee previously commended the TCEQ’s efforts to revise the permit, acknowledging the potential health benefits for local neighborhoods. The updated standards, including setback increases, production limits, and emission controls, were seen as positive steps towards reducing environmental impact. However, concerns arise as over 1,200 active concrete plants in Texas, with 105 located in Harris County alone, may delay compliance by utilizing the grace period.

“While the revised permit represents progress, it falls short by allowing numerous concrete batch plants, many in Harris County, to operate under outdated and potentially unsafe standards. We urged the TCEQ to prioritize community health in their permit issuance, and as they failed to do so, we are compelled to take legal action,” stated Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee. “Our communities cannot afford further delay in receiving the protection they rightfully deserve. It’s imperative that these facilities adhere to updated regulations without delay.”

Advocating for Vulnerable Communities

Concrete batch plants are often situated in underrepresented communities, exacerbating environmental injustices and health disparities. Recognizing the importance of community involvement, Harris County has collaborated with Lone Star Legal Aid to amplify the voices of affected neighborhoods.

“Lone Star Legal Aid stands in solidarity with the County Attorney’s office in addressing this critical issue affecting communities of color and low-income areas in Harris County. Our represented group clients, including Super Neighborhood 48 Trinity/Houston Gardens, Dyersforest Heights Civic Club, and Progressive Fifth Ward Community Association, have long advocated for equitable treatment in the permitting process,” remarked Amy Dinn, Litigation Director of the Environmental Justice Team at Lone Star Legal Aid. “This lawsuit presents an opportunity for the TCEQ to rectify existing disparities and prioritize the well-being of these neighborhoods.”

A Unified Effort for Change

The lawsuit follows closely on the heels of the TCEQ’s recent revisions to the concrete batch plant standard permit, prompted by a previous legal challenge and Title VI complaint filed by Harris County. With this latest legal action, Harris County and its partners continue to champion environmental justice and advocate for the health and safety of all communities.

Stay Informed and Engaged

Stay informed about developments in this important legal battle by visiting the Harris County Attorney’s website and following updates from Lone Star Legal Aid. Together, let’s ensure a cleaner, safer future for all residents of Harris County and beyond.

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Taking a Stand for Environmental Equity

Join us in supporting Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee and the coalition of community groups as they advocate for environmental accountability and justice. Together, we can create a more sustainable future for generations to come.

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