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EPA Report: Regulators Didn’t Protect Community From Toxic Pollution After Harvey

Statement of Adrian Shelley, Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office


Note: Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General released a report on Texas’ response to air pollution concerns after Hurricane Harvey. The report noted that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which is responsible for enforcing the state’s environmental laws, did not cooperate with the EPA inquiry.

The report shows what we all knew about Hurricane Harvey: lack of air pollution monitoring and communication with the public put people at risk. The TCEQ and EPA did not quickly deploy air monitoring equipment to monitor when air pollution levels likely were highest. Official comments to the public stating no concern about air pollution were not supported by available air monitoring data.

The TCEQ must learn from mistakes made during Hurricane Harvey and improve the response to the next big storm. But EPA’s defiant response to the OIG’s report suggests that the agency does not want to make necessary improvements.

The TCEQ’s refusal to cooperate with the report’s authors leaves little hope that the state’s response to the next storm will be any better.