TCEQ sued over new concrete plant regulations

March 1, 2024

A coalition of Houston community groups and Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee are suing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) less than a month after the agency strengthened its concrete batch plant permitting process.

The lawsuit calls out TCEQ for failing to require existing concrete batch plants to immediately comply with the agency’s new standards for permits. Instead, the TCEQ gave plants up to 10 years to meet the revised requirements, which were adopted Jan. 24.

Before the permit changes, Menefee commended them as measures that could reduce emissions and improve the health of local neighborhoods, including setback increases, annual production limits, dust emission controls and stockpile limits.

However, if more than 1,200 active concrete plants in Texas, 105 of which are in Harris County, take advantage of the grace period, the changes are unlikely to have a meaningful impact, Menefee said.

“While this updated permit is a step in the right direction, it allows for hundreds of concrete batch plants across Texas, many of which are in Harris County, to operate under standards that we know are outdated and potentially unsafe,” Menefee said.  “We asked that the TCEQ consider this when it issued their new permit and are taking action since they failed to do so.”

With the new batch standards, operators of plants will have to limit how much concrete they can produce on an hourly and yearly basis, because fine particulates such as crystalline silica can cause lung disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The plants will also have to reduce their stockpile sizes, build buffer zones on their properties and enhance their processes to control dust emissions.

Harris County filed its suit with Lone Star Legal Aid, which represents the communities where many of these concrete batch plants are located.

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Photo courtesy of the Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association

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