In a win for civil rights and environmental protection in Texas, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) voted today to guarantee access to information and opportunities for Spanish-language and other non-English dominant communities to participate in decisions that affect their environment and health, including the siting of polluting facilities and infrastructure.
The state’s agreement results from a 2019 complaint and rulemaking petition Earthjustice filed against Texas, on behalf of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.) and Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter.
The new rule, which will become effective on September 16, will offer the following:
- Interpretation services at public meetings involving environmental permitting when it would serve the public interest.
- Guarantee language documents in alternative languages for people with limited English proficiency.
- Provide descriptions in plain language of proposed projects that involve environmental permitting.
Texas frequently grants permits for oil refineries and chemical plants to be built and developed adjacent to predominantly Latinx communities.
Language access is a nationwide issue, and communities needing language access services disproportionately suffer the environmental and health impacts of toxic air pollution. Members of these and other communities often are not proficient in English.
The new rule represents important progress in the fight for language justice. TCEQ has responded to significant community concerns and must continue to engage genuinely with communities to ensure the new rule is effectively implemented.
Industrial facilities continue to expand in communities like Manchester, which have large Latinx populations and a substantial percentage of residents that are not proficient in English. Manchester is encircled by 30 chemical plants and waste sites.