On Wednesday, September 22, at 9:30 AM, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Commissioners will address their recently proposed rule amendment to the concrete batch plant standard permitting process (Item #38 on the agenda).
If the proposed amendment is passed as written, there would be no obligation for companies to consider health-harming crystalline silica emissions AND certain community distance buffer requirements would be removed. Crystalline silica is an EPA-designated lung irritant that can lead to lung cancer. Concrete batch plants in the Houston-area are often located in residential neighborhoods next to homes, schools, daycares, and parks.
In 2012, the TCEQ inadvertently removed language in the standard permit that exempted cancer-causing crystalline silica from requirements in the Texas Administrative Code that effectively required facilities to eliminate crystalline silica from their emissions. While none are known to have done so, a recent court challenge led the TCEQ to once again propose the exemption of concrete batch plants from controlling crystalline silica emissions.
Instead of taking the opportunity to permanently improve the permitting process and initiate changes that more fully protect Texas communities from concrete batch plant emissions, the TCEQ plans to reinstate an exemption that ignores the risk of a known carcinogen. This is a regressive action for public health and safety.
TCEQ is trying to dampen informed public input.
The TCEQ has received a large number of written public comments on this issue but have not shared their answers publicly. By request, AAH has received the TCEQ’s answers to all the comments submitted. Please find them HERE.
By withholding this information, the TCEQ is making it harder for the public – particularly those most engaged on this issue – to make informed comments during the upcoming meeting this Wednesday.
Texans have a right to breathe clean air.
Residents across the state have found the requirements of the concrete batch plant standard permit to be incompatible with the quality of life and health that is the right of all Texas communities. In the Houston area, active concrete batch plants are concentrated in predominantly working class communities of color. The City of Houston’s Health & Human Services Dept data shows existing cancer clusters in many of these areas. Similarly, the EPA’s Environmental Justice dashboard indicates that these zip codes all have higher than national average Air Toxics Cancer Risks.
TCEQ’s rule change will exacerbate an already dire situation and infringe on Texans’ rights to clean air – particularly in Houston-area communities of color where these facilities are most often located.
We strongly oppose the TCEQ’s attempt to exempt the Standard Permit from considering the impacts of crystalline silica emissions and ask that they conduct a crystalline silica-specific protectiveness review based on measured concentrations of the pollutant and make it available to the general public. You can read our written comments to the TCEQ HERE.
We encourage you to join us and rally around this issue to get a substantial number of public commenters at the Sept. 22nd TCEQ meeting.
How to register and address the Commission at the meeting?
Please visit the “General Information section” of the TCEQ Commission meeting agenda HERE for information on how to watch online or listen to the meeting by phone, how to register to speak, how to ask for special accommodations, how to obtain an interpreter for your presentation, and more.