Policy and Legal Interventions

Policy and Legal Interventions

Protecting Against Chemical Disasters

Lax industry regulations are endangering the health and safety of Houston area communities. Together with our allies, we advocate for stronger policies and use the power of law to hold polluters and our governments accountable when they threaten to undermine critical environmental safeguards.

The issue

The magnitude of the polluting petrochemical industry in the Houston area, combined with the historical practice of siting toxic facilities in floodplains and in close proximity to residential neighborhoods, highlights the need for strong environmental laws and vigorous enforcement of those laws. 

It is well known that facilities in Texas operate in a lax regulatory and enforcement environment, which puts community health and safety at risk. This lack of protection got compounded by the Trump EPA’s dangerous environmental deregulation push.

What we’re doing

We serve as a check on local industries, monitoring the state and federal environmental agencies’ actions. We advocate for stronger policies and regulations, and when our air quality or chemical safety laws are being threatened or too weak to protect public health, we engage in litigation serving as plaintiffs in a variety of legal suits. 

We’ve listed below some of the cases we’re involved in. 


3746 – Bad Neighbor Rule
D.C. Cir. 19-1019

In October 2019, we achieved a victory for clean air and public health as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the EPA in the “Bad Neighbor Rule” case. This decision will require upwind states to place tighter limits on air pollution that contributes to harmful ozone levels in downwind states, such as Texas. 

Open cases

EPA Flare Standards Complaint

We joined the Environmental Integrity Project and eight other organizations in suing the EPA over its failure to reduce toxic air pollution from the flares on petrochemical plants, gas processing facilities, and other industrial sites.

3648 – Texas Substitute Redesignations
5th Cir. 18-60290

This case is a challenge to three EPA actions that illegally allowed Texas to use the so-called  “redesignation substitute” regulatory mechanism to downgrade smog protections in the Houston and Dallas areas. 

3202 Chemical Disaster Rule
D.C. Cir. 17-1155, 17-1085 

In August 2018, we successfully challenged the Trump EPAs attempt to delay the implementation of the “Chemical Disaster Rule”, which requires facilities to strengthen their risk management and safety measures. The rule came into full effect in September 2018 but was rolled back in November 2019. We will continue to fight the rollback of this rule. 

3065 – Refineries Air Toxics Rule
D.C. Cir. 19-1015, 16-1033; DDC 12-1607

With this case, we are challenging the EPA’s national air toxics standards for oil refineries as unlawfully weak, while opposing any industry efforts to remove, delay, or further weaken these standards. 

2939 – Exxon Baytown Citizen Suit Amicus
5th Cir. 17-20545

We are supporting an environmental citizen suit seeking a remedy for thousands of violations of the federal Clean Air Act by the ExxonMobil Corporation at its Baytown refinery and chemical plant. In February 2021, a federal judge ordered Exxon Mobil to pay a $14.25 million civil penalty Tuesday in this long-running environmental enforcement case. 

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