Tell your representatives: It's time to protect Texans and make corporate polluters pay this #TxLege.
For too long, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has failed to make polluters pay for what they are doing to our health and our shared home.
In 2019, air pollution was released illegally by a bad actor somewhere in Texas every single day. In Houston, it was 357 days. But TCEQ took action only about 3 percent of the time.
When they do, they tend to issue fines that round down to about one penny for every pound of air pollution like cancer-causing benzene and other toxic chemicals. In Texas, it costs giant companies like Exxon Mobil and Valero only $25,000 when they do — but these companies can make that much back in minutes.
Business as usual has led to air quality that isn’t good enough for Texans. No parent should have to worry that their child’s walk to school could be hazardous to their health and impact their ability to thrive.
Rep. Erin Zwiener, who serves District 45, has filed House Bill 1820 in the 87th Texas legislative session to protect Texans. The bill would require TCEQ to issue fines increased by 100 percent to $1 dollar for every pound of pollution released illegally.
It would also require reviews that could lead to the revocation of permits if companies allow the chemical disasters we have seen all too often that injured residents and killed workers. These disasters take an economic toll, too: The days of fires at the Intercontinental Terminals Company tank farm in Deer Park forced the Houston Ship Channel to close, interrupting other companies’ operations and leading to an estimated $1 billion hit in lost revenue and extra expenses.
If corporate polluters don’t fear consequences, they won’t change. And Texans will continue to suffer from their recklessness.
HB 1820 makes fiscal sense, too. It’s estimated that Texas, as the legislature faces a budget shortfall and cascading crises in dire need of funding, is leaving about $2.3 billion in fines on the table every year. The bill is a good start. It needs your support.
So do other bills, including Sen. Cesar Blanco’s Senate Bill 684, which would repeal a legal loophole easily abused by polluters, and Rep. Vikki Goodwin’s House Bill 1191 and Rep. Ron Reynolds’ House Bill 784.
These two house bills together would make environmental justice a priority and begin to ensure that the state’s Black and Latino communities, disproportionately exposed to multiple sources of pollution and dealing with cumulative impacts that can entrench inequality, would receive the full protection they have the right to expect from our government.