Houston Matters

Consumer Rights Group Criticizes Suspension Of Environmental Quality Regulations After Imelda

The TCEQ asked Gov. Greg Abbott to lift the regulations arguing they can delay the state’s response. Adrian Shelley, director of Public Citizen in Texas, says the measure hurts the environment.

A view of petrochemical and refining facilities near Houston, TX.

A local consumer rights group is criticizing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for the suspension of environmental quality regulations after extreme weather from Tropical Storm Imelda last week.

In a letter sent to Abbott last Thursday, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality  asked him to lift environmental quality regulations. The agency said the regulations can prevent or delay necessary action in coping with severe weather and flooding.

Adrian Shelley, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, told Houston Matters Tuesday that lifting the regulations hurts the environment more than it helps.

“If companies act negligently, it makes it more difficult if not impossible to enforce against any negligent activities that might have occurred,” said Shelley, who is also former executive director of Air Alliance Houston.

Shelley said companies already know what happens during extreme weather events. He said polluters should get help to prevent additional contamination during a disaster, instead of suspending regulations. 

For Shelley, lifting the regulations makes it more difficult for regulators to understand if and how companies act negligently. And that can be a challenge if the state decides to enforce regulations later.

“It sends the wrong message to the regulated community and to the public,” said Shelley, “that protection of public health and safety, limiting air and water pollution are just not a priority for the state.”

Shelley said the suspension of regulations for chemical plants after Hurricane Harvey lasted seven months. He noted that many environmental activists weren’t initially aware that environmental rules were being suspended.

Shelley has asked Gov. Abbott to reinstate the environmental rules.

You can listen to Shelley’s interview with Houston Matters host Craig Cohen here: 

You can read the letter from the TECQ here:

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