Corpus Christi, TX
A complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act against the City of Corpus Christi, Texas, for the proposed development of a desalination plant in a historically Black neighborhood was referred to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in a letter to city officials last week. The referral of the complaint to DOJ, which will also continue to be investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is an important step forward for justice for the community.
“This referral to DOJ indicates our Title VI Civil Rights and Fair Housing complaint is being taken seriously but the fight for justice isn’t over yet,” said Lamont Taylor, vice president of Hillcrest Residents Association and co-chair of Citizens Alliance for Fairness and Progress. “We look forward to working with DOJ and HUD to carry out an investigation that will result in a full account of the City of Corpus Christi’s pursuit to sacrifice a historically Black neighborhood to industrial needs. The Hillcrest community is standing up to blatant environmental racism.”
“We hope that the referral to the Department of Justice will ensure justice for the Hillcrest neighborhood,” said Reverend Henry Williams, president of the Hillcrest Residents Association.
“We look forward to working with both DOJ and HUD on this Title VI Civil Rights and Fair Housing Act investigation,” said Erin Gaines, senior attorney at Earthjustice. “The City of Corpus Christi has a long-standing pattern of discriminately placing industrial facilities in this historically Black neighborhood, subjecting Black and Brown residents to disproportionate adverse health and property impacts from increased industrialization. The referral of this investigation to DOJ is an important step in ensuring justice for Hillcrest residents.”
The City and Port of Corpus Christi have proposed four locations for potential desalination plants that would enable the buildout of new petrochemical facilities in the Coastal Bend region. Freshwater is a key need to further industrial expansion of petrochemical facilities, which will lock in more climate pollution, plastic waste, and toxic chemicals that pollute nearby communities.
A 2022 analysis conducted by Autocase Economic Advisory for the Coastal Alliance to Protect Our Environment reveals that desalination plants proposed by the City and Port of Corpus Christi are by far the costliest water supply option for the region.
Earthjustice and Perales, Allmon, and Ice, P.C. (PAI) also represent the Hillcrest Residents Association in challenging the City’s Inner Harbor Desalination Plant water permit applications before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). TCEQ shared the draft water discharge permit with the public in January 2024 and Earthjustice and PAI will submit comments on behalf of the Hillcrest Residents Association to ensure the agency’s permitting includes an environmental justice review and protects critical marine ecosystems and the regional fishing, recreational, and tourism industries in the area that would suffer from the discharge of brine from the desalination plants.