Photo by Colin Cox

HOUSTON, TX – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner held a press conference on January 7th in Acres Homes, a historic community of color in Northwest Houston where a concrete batch plant is attempting to secure a permit to operate its facility next to a residential home and across the street from Highland Park and Community Center, a vital community gathering space, park and playground.

If approved by the state agency, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the concrete batch plant, Soto Ready Mix, would emit tons of harmful fine particulate pollution into the air in the midst of this residential neighborhood. Residents say the unpermitted facility is already emitting large amounts of dust, impacting community members’ health and wellbeing. The facility has received 34 citations from City of Houston departments since June 2019 for violating numerous city ordinances and codes.

State, county and local elected officials and representatives including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, State Representative Jarvis Johnson, and Senator John Whitmire attended the January 7th press conference with community members in a unanimous show of support for the residents, who are fighting for their right to clean air. “They are owed the dignity and quality of life protected by the laws of this nation,” said Congresswoman Lee.

Announcing a joint Environmental Justice Working Group, Mayor Turner signaled a new collaboration between the City and Harris County to tackle egregious environmental justice concerns in Houston, where a lack of zoning regulations and the intentional siting of industrial facilities in communities of color and low-income communities leads to poorer health outcomes for community members.

Mayor Turner acknowledged LSLA Environmental Justice Attorney Colin Cox, who is representing an Acres Homes resident in the community’s fight against the concrete batch plant. Since the spring of 2018, Cox has also provided support to the community through educational presentations to help residents understand their legal rights via the state’s air permitting process. Over 600 community members have taken part in the (TCEQ) public participation process on the permit to date, submitting comments and requests for a contested case hearing to TCEQ, as well as a petition against the concrete batch plant.

The State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) will hold apreliminary Contested Case Hearing on Soto Ready Mix’s permit on January 23 in Houston.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org.