Today, we want to bring your attention to an important issue that affects us all: the so-called “1-mile rule” in Texas, which has far-reaching consequences for our environment and the health of our citizens.
Recently, an article by Dylan Baddour in Inside Climate News shed light on this arbitrary policy that shields big polluters from citizen complaints. Although not found in any state law or Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) rules, the “1-mile rule” has been used as a loophole to deny citizens the right to challenge air pollution permits.
In one particular case, environmental groups raised concerns about an oil company seeking pollution permits to expand its export terminal beside Lavaca Bay. The company’s response was disheartening but not surprising—they cited the “quintessential one-mile test” as a reason to deny the public’s right to challenge the permits. This “test” claims that citizens living more than 1 mile away from the site have no standing to bring forth a complaint.
What is truly concerning is that the TCEQ claims that the “1-mile test” doesn’t officially exist. According to TCEQ spokesperson Laura Lopez, the Commission applies all factors set out in statute and rules. However, despite this denial, the “1-mile rule” keeps resurfacing in TCEQ opinions, leading to the rejection of numerous hearing requests and the issuance of permits that may not meet the necessary environmental standards.
As a community, we believe in our right to protect our environment and hold big polluters accountable for their actions. The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts are landmark environmental laws that grant citizens the opportunity to challenge pollution permits in court, ensuring that federal standards are upheld. However, the “1-mile rule” in Texas seems to be obstructing this process, effectively controlling access to the courts for complainants.
By denying contested case hearings, citing the “1-mile rule,” the TCEQ exercises full discretion to deny any person the right of judicial review. This is an arbitrary limitation that undermines the essence of our democracy, where everyone’s voice should be heard, regardless of their proximity to the pollution source.
Thankfully, concerned citizens and environmental groups have not remained silent. They filed petitions with the EPA, urging the agency to address this issue and protect the rights of citizens to participate in the contested case hearing process. The EPA responded to these petitions and began an informal investigation into the matter.
It is encouraging to see that the EPA recognizes the seriousness of these allegations and the importance of public participation in environmental matters. The EPA has the authority to revoke a state’s authority to implement federal environmental law if the state fails to meet program requirements, including the obligation to allow public participation in pollution permit challenges.
At OnderLaw, we stand firm in our commitment to safeguarding our environment and community. We urge the EPA to conduct a thorough investigation and ensure that states comply with public participation requirements. We hope that, through this action, we can create a more just and sustainable future for Texas and beyond.
As citizens, we all have a responsibility to protect our environment and ensure that our voices are heard. Together, we can stand against the “1-mile rule” and work towards a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable world for everyone. If you or a loved one have been affected by environmental pollution, contact us today for your free, no-obligation consultation.