HOUSTON, TX (KTRK) — The Environmental Protection Agency investigates the Texas Department of Environmental Quality for possible civil rights violations.
The investigation follows TCEQ’s cement batching plant permitting process following complaints from both Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee and a group of Houston residents represented by the nonprofit Lone Star Legal Aid.
“I want to make it clear that the EPA stepping in here today is an important step in ensuring our communities are safe from pollution and that TCEQ is held accountable,” Menefee said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “The people in our district know the damage caused by these systems only too well. We have more than 140 concrete batching plants throughout Harris County, and they are hyper-concentrated in areas with disproportionately black and Hispanic populations.”
One of these residents is Kathy Gunter. She loves her two acres at Houston Gardens. She doesn’t like the 20 concrete mixing plants within a 10 mile radius of her home. She now hopes federal authorities are involved.
“Once they start digging, hopefully they’ll find some gems,” Gunter told ABC13. “I am very happy. It’s time. It’s time.
ABC13 contacted TCEQ. The agency declined an interview, and a spokesman tells us they have no comment.
EPA tells ABC13 that an investigation does not constitute wrongdoing, but they are investigating two issues: Does TCEQ’s approval process have the effect of racial discrimination? Is the agency violating the civil rights of non-English speakers by not properly communicating their process?
“We hope that the EPA’s investigation will prompt TCEQ to re-evaluate its standard approval process for these facilities to ensure a full health impact assessment,” said Amy Dinn of Lone Star Legal Aid.
The EPA tells ABC13 it will work quickly, but gave no timeline for resolution.
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https://abc13.com/texas-department-of-environmental-quality-investigation-potential-civil-rights-violation-houston-gardens/12112788/ Houston Gardens concrete plant: FBI agents are investigating civil rights complaints against the Texas Department of Environmental Quality