Current Affairs

Texas Court Invalidates Air Pollution Permit for Gulf Coast Oil Terminal

In another legal blow to Texas’ environmental regulator, a court has invalidated an air pollution permit granted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the expansion of Max Midstream’s Seahawk Oil Terminal on Lavaca Bay. Travis County District Court Judge Amy Clark Meachum overturned the TCEQ’s 2022 decision, which had denied local shrimpers a permit hearing and authorized the terminal’s expansion.
The judge’s ruling mandates a hearing on all pertinent disputed issues of fact, as requested by Diane Wilson, representing San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper. Wilson and others had argued that Max Midstream had downplayed anticipated emissions to bypass more stringent scrutiny for larger pollution sources.
Max Midstream’s legal team contended that Wilson and fellow shrimpers lacked standing due to living more than a mile away from the terminal. However, the practice of invoking a “one-mile rule” to deny hearing requests has been challenged, as no such rule exists in Texas law or TCEQ regulations.
The court’s decision marks a rare instance of intervention in pollution permits in Texas. Notably, another recent federal court ruling in East Texas similarly found the TCEQ failed to enforce adequate pollution control standards for a gas terminal.
Meachum’s ruling holds significance for Wilson’s broader efforts, including opposing plans to dredge a larger shipping canal to the terminal through a superfund site in Lavaca Bay. Wilson, known for her longstanding environmental activism, has fought against petrochemical development in the region for decades and remains steadfast in her commitment to safeguarding the environment.
At 76 years old, Wilson continues her activism, recently completing a 30-day hunger strike outside a chemical plant to protest alleged human rights abuses. Her dedication stems from her deep connection to the waterways she considers part of her family, reinforcing her determination to protect her home and environment for as long as she can.

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