The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, announced an environmental justice initiative last April. Now, an Axios investigation finds the state agency is avoiding even using the words “environmental justice.”
The idea behind the phrase is to address the unequal impact of pollution and other health hazards – which disproportionately affect people who are low-income and people of color.
Axios reporter Asher Price says the TCEQ – which is led by Gov. Greg Abbott’s appointees – has long had a reputation of having a “light touch” when it comes to enforcement of environmental regulations. He found the TCEQ has not budgeted any money for its environmental justice initiative.
Furthermore, the only actions Price could find flagged as part of the initiative were actually language changes required to address complaints from environmental groups. They alleged the TCEQ was violating civil rights rules by not requiring translation services at public meetings and that notices be posted in languages other than English.
The commission “said they were going to be doing a lot more outreach with marginalized communities,” Price said, “the ones most affected by pollution. These are sometimes known as ‘fence line communities’… These are the people who live just on the other side of the fence from big petroleum refineries, coal plants and so on.”