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March 30, 2023
Harris County Attorney Menefee Pushes for EPA to Strengthen Air Quality Standards

Houston, Texas – Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee submitted formal comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advocating for stronger national air quality standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which is airborne pollution typically emitted in large quantities at refineries and plants, construction sites, and other industrial facilities. PM2.5 exposure can lead to respiratory issues, irregular heartbeat, death in people with heart or lung diseases, and aggravated asthma.

“This is an environmental justice issue. Study after study has shown that air pollution has a greater impact on lower-income communities, and Black and Hispanic people,” said Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee. “There are many communities in Harris County where people live a stone’s throw away from industrial and toxic waste facilities. Every level of government should be doing all we can to protect them. I’m grateful that the Environmental Protection Agency is considering strengthening this air quality standard, and I fully support making sure every person living in Harris County has clean air and water.”

In a pivot from an April 2020 decision by the EPA under the Trump administration, the EPA in January 2023 announced a proposal to lower the threshold of acceptable annual PM2.5 emissions. If adopted, this rule would impact the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) process for issuing permits to industrial facilities, as the TCEQ is the state agency charged with ensuring that the permitted emissions in Texas do not rise to a level that is harmful to human health and welfare.

A copy of Harris County’s comments can be found here. The EPA’s comment period has now closed, and the agency has stated it plans to issue final standards later this year.