The Inflation Act could bring an environmental justice center to Houston

US Representative Sheila Jackson Lee wants environmental justice funds in the Inflation Reduction Act to flow as freely into northeast Houston as the cement plants that plague the predominantly black-infested area.

Legislation passed Friday includes $60 billion for environmental justice programs that can help communities like Trinity and Houston Gardens fight polluters and reduce emissions, the congresswoman said during a Sunday event at the Trinity Gardens Church of Christ, at which About 25 community lawyers and concerned residents attended.

Problems such as illegal dumping of industrial waste, cancer clusters from creosote used by railroad companies, and air and water pollution from a growing number of industrial sites make the city‘s northeast corner a “fitting example” for communities the legislation aims to help , Jackson said Lee.

READ MORE: ‘People are dying’: A mother mourns the loss of her son to cancer at the polluted Fifth Ward railway yard

The bill also provides $3 billion for community centers that “can address disproportionate environmental and health harms related to pollution.” Northeast Houston should have such a center, she said, describing the area as the new “Mecca of concrete batches.”

The bill offers a hand to advocates in communities across Texas where pollution restrictions are lax. Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it was investigating state environmental agencies accused of violating residents’ civil rights when Texas updated its standard cement batching permit.

The facilities are notorious in the community for billowing dust clouds and concreted water seeping into neighboring properties. There are three schools within half a mile of the plants, said Keith Downey, Super Neighborhood President representing Kashmere Gardens.

Jackson Lee told supporters that the new federal funding could offer relief to a community that is largely fighting these struggles on its own.

“We want the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to answer the question of why they changed the regulations to weaken the regulations or the requirements for concrete batching plants,” she said. “We want the Texas Department of Health and Human Services to start doing more testing, more ground testing, more air testing and start investigating the community intrusions and find a way to end it.”

After meeting community leaders and residents, they led Rep. Jackson Lee around the corner to Texas Concrete Ready Mix and pointed to a retention pond across the street, where they said concrete had seeped through drains. (The company could not be immediately reached for comment on the issue.)

Advocates have argued that Trinity and Houston Gardens residents face disproportionately dangerous pollution from rail and truck yards, landfills, concrete mixing plants and metal recycling plants.

State researchers identified cancer clusters in neighborhoods near Union Pacific’s Englewood Rail Yard, about 5 miles away. Railroad tracks cross the area.

Jackson Lee said advocates representing different neighborhoods in Northeast Houston might need to come together and form a nonprofit organization to apply for the funds that would allow them to take action against bad actors.

“We need to put up some sort of environmental fence around our neighborhoods,” she said.

[email protected]

Comments are closed.