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Texas Leads the Nation in Clean Water Act Violations

The Law Office of C. William Smalling, P.C. March 29, 2018

According to a new report by Environment Texas, an environmental advocacy group, Texas leads the nation in violations of the Clean Water Act. The report found that over a 21-month period from January 2016 to September 2017, major industrial facilities in the state released pollution that exceeded levels allowed under Clean Water Act (CWA) permits 938 times. By comparison, Pennsylvania was second on the list with more than 600 exceedances. If your business has been cited for CWA violation, it is essential to enlist the services of an experienced health, safety and environmental attorney.

The Environment Texas Report

The report claims that industries in Texas routinely release excess chemicals and human waste into rivers and bays. Nearly half of the state’s major industrial facilities may have violated their wastewater permits by pumping oil, grease, chemicals and excrement into the waterways.

The report also contends that these industries not only exceeded their permit limits frequently, but that some of the exceedances were severe, with multiple times the amount of pollution permitted under CWA permits being released. The report also partially blames state and federal agencies, in this case the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), for not taking strong enforcement action to stop the excessive discharges.

“TCEQ has a lax enforcement regime,” said Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas. “That contributes to the high exceedance levels. Many facilities don’t have any pressure to comply with the permits.”

In response to the report, a spokesperson for TCEQ said it routinely monitors data submitted by the companies for violations and takes appropriate action when violations are serious enough to enforce correction and to seek penalties to deter future noncompliance.

The report highlighted that regions with heavy industrial activity had the most violations, with two-thirds of the 938 cases involving facilities located in Jefferson, Nueces and Harris counties, well as Corpus Christi, home to the states largest industrial facilities. Finally, the report also notes that there has been a decrease in enforcement action at the federal level under the Trump administration.

Whether the Environment Texas Report will result in fines being levied by the TCEQ remains to be seen. In the meantime, if you have been cited for violations by TCEQ or the EPA, it is crucial to have proper legal representation.