Last week, Governor Greg Abbott’s office lifted suspended environmental regulations put in place during Hurricane Harvey. The suspension had been in effect for almost seven months, and the removal came shortly after One Breath Partnership (which is comprised of several environmental organizations, including Air Alliance Houston) sent a letter to Abbott’s office asking him to end these waivers.
Since the storm, news organizations such as the Houston Chronicle and Associated Press reported that the region had endured 100 toxic spills on land, in water and air during and after Harvey, and documents showed that numerous industrial chemicals, including benzene, vinyl chloride, butadiene and other known human carcinogens, were released throughout Houston’s petrochemical corridor and surrounding residential neighborhoods. Environmental groups also sent a letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality demanding the rules be enforced again.
Three days after the storm hit, Gov. Abbott suspended many environmental regulations relating to air pollution, wastewater and fuel standards for vehicles. This allowed facilities to skirt environmental reporting and record-keeping rules, as well as release high quantities of unauthorized emissions after the storm passed.
Air Alliance Houston considers these actions by the governor’s office to be a major health and safety win for all Houstonians, and for our air. We will continue to push elected officials and TCEQ to prioritize public health over profits as the region continues to recover from Harvey.