The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an investigation into the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for potential civil rights violations in their concrete plant permitting practices.
The investigation came about after Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee and Lone Star Legal Aid submitted complaints under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to the EPA on the state agency permitting processes.
According to Menefee, the EPA is investigating whether or not the state permitting process and criteria of concrete batch plants discriminate against Black and Latino residents.
Menefee, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, Commissioner Rodney Ellis, and Adrian Garcia, Legal Aid attorneys, Texas legislature members, community members, and more held a press conference on Tuesday to speak about the investigation.
“The EPA stepping in here today is an important step in ensuring that our communities are protected from pollution and that TCEQ is held accountable,” Menefee said. “The dust from concrete batch plants poses many health risks, including respiratory illness and the risk of cancer. Yet time and again, the TCEQ has approved for additional plants in these very same neighborhoods and failed to ensure that pollution that comes out of these plants does not harm human health and the environment.”
According to reports, Harris County residents have filed complaints for years about the negative impact the concrete batch plants scattered across the county have had on their health and quality of life.
“This means a lot to us as they continue to expand concrete batch plants along Homestead in front of park facilities, in front of our homes, in front of our schools, this is important to us, and now we have someone to hear us loud and clear for the small Black and Brown voices communities that have not been heard,” Super Neighborhood 48 Trinity/ Houston Gardens representative Huey German-Wilson said. “Thank you to the city and county and Lone Star Legal Aid and our elected officials that stand behind me. But more importantly, my community stood up and said this can’t go on. We can’t take it anymore. We can’t breathe.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee also pointed out that Texas leads the U.S. with 1700 concrete plants across the state, 188 in Houston and Harris County.
“Our babies have asthma,” Lee said. “Our seniors can’t breathe. The particles get in your lungs, and they plant themselves there. You are playing sick. People have died from the chronic illness that comes about from these particular concrete batch facilities.”
The Signal contacted the TCEQ, where a spokesperson for the agency said they didn’t have a comment at this time.