Energy

EPA Launches Civil Rights Probe Into Texas State Agency

(Photo by Elijah Nouvelage / AFP) (Photo by ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

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Jack McEvoy Energy & Environment Reporter
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The EPA’s Office of External Civil Rights Compliance (ECRCO) is launching two civil rights investigations into the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to determine whether state regulators exploited people who do not speak English and improperly approved concrete batch plants in minority communities, according to an EPA statement.

The EPA announced on Aug 3. that it is accepting legal complaints for examination of the issue by ECRCO. The EPA will examine the TCEQ’s standards for concrete batch plant permits in Harris County, Texas, to decide if the state firm violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, discriminating on the basis of race or national origin by failing to provide information in Spanish and failing to adequately protect communities of color who live in areas with a high concentration of concrete facilities. (RELATED: ‘Outrageous’: EPA Agents Are Flying Helicopters Over Texas Oil Fields To Crack Down On Methane Emissions From Drilling)

“Cement manufacturing is now a major target of the climate agenda and the Biden administration is using identity politics to shut them down and regulate them,” Marc Morano, publisher of Climate Depot and former U.S. Senate senior staffer on the Environment & Public Works Committee, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The Biden administration is smearing American companies as racist in order to achieve its climate goals.”

The investigation was prompted when TCEQ amended the basic permit for batch plants in 2021, where materials for making concrete are stored and funneled into concrete trucks, according to documents. The EPA is investigating to see if the changes were properly communicated to non-English speaking communities because state law mandates that TCEQ alert Texans to such changes.

Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas praised the EPA for opening the investigation, claiming that TCEQ’s permitting process was a “rubber stamp,” according to Axios.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sign is seen on the podium at EPA headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Ting Shen

“No questions asked,” she said. “Set up right next to the elementary school.”

The agency is also investigating complaints from local residents who argue that the plants pose a significant health risk to minority communities, according to comments on TCEQ’s website. Concrete plants are subject to government permits and emissions regulations that aim to limit air pollution, according to the EPA.

“The investigations will be conducted in accordance with EPA ECRCO’s Case Resolution Manual,” the EPA said in a statement. “Acceptance of a complaint for investigation in no way amounts to a decision on the merits. Rather, it means the complaint has met the jurisdictional criteria. It does not constitute an assessment as to the veracity of the allegations or represent a conclusion as to whether any civil rights violation has occurred.”

Concrete plants produce large amounts of particulate matter which is linked to serious health conditions, including reduced lung development in children, higher rates of asthma, bronchitis, heart disease and cancer, according to Rice University.

Harris County, which contains the major city of Houston, has the largest share of concrete batch plants in the state, Axios reported. A majority of those plants are in communities where minorities make up at least 80% of the population.

The EPA is now taking a more aggressive stance on civil rights probes, E&E news reported.

A TCEQ spokesperson declined to comment on the matter. The EPA referred the DCNF to its statement.

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