Residents of Port Arthur are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to launch an investigation into whether Texas violated their civil rights by allowing a nearby facility to pollute the air for decades without requiring modern pollution control technologies.
The petition, which was filed Wednesday by Lone Star Legal Aid and the Environmental Integrity Project on behalf of the Port Arthur Community Action Network, alleges that the Texas Commission On Environmental Quality has neglected to adequately address emissions from the Oxbow calcining plant, allowing it to continue to pollute high amounts of sulfur dioxide.
“(The TCEQ is) responsible for protecting the people of the state of Texas from harm from air pollution, and there’s a failure at TCEQ to adequately regulate Oxbow’s harmful sulfur pollution,” said Colin Cox, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. “The greatest harm from that failure is falling on the people of Port Arthur, falling on a low income, black neighborhood. And that’s a civil rights problem.”
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs that receive federal funding. The petition alleges that the TCEQ violated the act by failing to require Oxbow to implement modern pollution control devices, such as scrubbers, which can remove up to 95% of sulfur dioxide and are common at modern facilities.
The petition points to a recent permit renewal granted by the TCEQ in 2020, despite concerns raised by the community.