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Energy & Environment

Environmental Group Sues EPA Over Houston-Area Pollution Permits

It’s an effort to force the agency to respond to objections about various air permits.


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Heavy industry on the Houston Ship Channel

A Washington, D.C.-based environmental group has sued the Environmental Protection agency over what it calls “weak” air permits at Houston-area refineries.

The Environmental Integrity Project claims Texas is issuing permits that allow illegal amounts of air pollution and are “nearly impossible to enforce.” The group argues the EPA should block the permits.

“Our goal here isn't to shut down plants, or to establish new requirements,” says Gabriel Clark-Leach, an attorney for the group suing. “It's just to get documents that clearly say what sources have to do, in a way that allows for enforcement of the requirements in the permits.”

The group objects to air permits for Houston-area refineries and a power plant near Dallas. The lawsuits are an effort to force the EPA to respond to those objections.

Leach says they would settle the case if that happens, but with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in charge, it might not.

“Our understanding is that Pruitt has directed EPA and [the Department of Justice] not to settle these kinds of cases, so we may be forced to litigate,” he says.

The group is also criticizing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for being lax on enforcing pollution laws. TCEQ and the EPA both say they don't comment on pending litigation.

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