Energy & Environment

A Legal Challenge To How Texas Made It Easier To Pollute

Another legal action could soon be filed that alleges that Texas environmental regulators aren’t doing their jobs and what’s more, are keeping citizens from having a say in pollution cases.

photo of refineries
Refineries, petrochemical plants and electricity generation facilities need state permits to pollute the air and water

Refineries, petrochemical plants and electricity generation facilities need state permits to pollute the air and water.

Earlier this year, big industrial companies complained that it took too long in Texas to get permits to pollute the air and water. One complaint was about the public hearings that could be held to challenge the permits.

So the legislature streamlined the process, now making it more difficult and costly for citizens living near industrial sites to take part in those hearings.

“I was shocked when they put that provision in. I couldn’t believe anybody would do that. But the polluters pushed hard to get their way,” says Jim Marston with the Environmental Defense Fund.

Marston says what Texas lawmakers did runs afoul of federal environmental regulations. So he says his group is about to file a petition against the federal government demanding that it, in essence, tell the state’s environmental regulators to issue permits the old way.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had previously said it was concerned by what Texas lawmakers had done, but so far, the federal agency has taken no action on its own and would not comment on the pending petition by the Environmental Defense Fund.

The petition would be the second legal action in as many months filed by environmental groups contending that Texas isn’t enforcing pollution rules as required by agreements it has with the federal government.

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Dave Fehling

Dave Fehling

Director of News and Public Affairs

As Director of News and Public Affairs, Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston's NPR station. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well...

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