Texas Court Strikes Down Air Pollution Permit for Gulf Coast Oil Terminal – Inside Climate News

Texas Court Strikes Down Air Pollution Permit for Gulf Coast Oil Terminal  InsideClimate News

Texas Court Strikes Down Air Pollution Permit for Gulf Coast Oil Terminal – Inside Climate News

Report: Court Strikes Down Air Pollution Permit in Texas

For the second time in three weeks, a court struck down an air pollution permit issued by Texas’ environmental regulator.

Judge Reverses Decision on Max Midstream’s Seahawk Oil Terminal

In a one-page ruling posted Tuesday, Travis County District Court Judge Amy Clark Meachum reversed a 2022 decision by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to deny local shrimpers’ request for a permit hearing and authorize an expansion of Max Midstream’s Seahawk Oil Terminal on Lavaca Bay, on the Gulf Coast between Houston and Corpus Christi.

Meachum sent the case back to the TCEQ for a hearing “on all relevant and material disputed issues of fact.”

Shrimpers Argue Underrepresented Emissions

The shrimpers, led by Diane Wilson, head of San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper, had argued before the TCEQ that Max Midstream underrepresented expected emissions from its expanded terminal to avoid a more rigorous review process for larger pollution sources.

But TCEQ denied Wilson’s challenge to Max Midstream’s air pollution permit after the oil company’s lawyers argued that Wilson and the other shrimpers lacked standing because they lived more than one mile from the new and expanded terminal.

Controversial “One-Mile Rule”

An Inside Climate News investigation found in July that TCEQ has consistently invoked the “one-mile rule” to deny permit hearings for at least the past 13 years, even though no such rule exists in either Texas law or TCEQ rules.

While a TCEQ spokesperson denied the existence of the one-mile rule when asked about the practice, Inside Climate News compiled a list of 15 cases that centered on the one-mile standard using data assembled by the nonprofit law firm Earthjustice, which reviewed 460 permit review requests from 2016 to 2021. Earthjustice found that virtually all of the cases TCEQ accepted for review were filed by those who lived about a mile away from the point of dispute.

Rare Intervention by Courts

Courts have rarely intervened on pollution permits in Texas. But prior to Meachum’s order, the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans last month struck down a permit for an East Texas gas terminal, ruling that the TCEQ failed to apply adequate pollution control standards.

Implications and Future Actions

Meachum’s ruling is significant for Wilson’s fight against plans to dredge a bigger shipping canal to the Max Midstream terminal through a superfund site in Lavaca Bay. Wilson has been fighting petrochemical development on Lavaca Bay since the 1990s and has been recognized for her environmental activism.

As the court decisions highlight the need for stricter pollution control standards, it aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations. SDG 3 focuses on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages, while SDG 13 aims to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. By addressing air pollution and holding companies accountable for their emissions, these court rulings contribute to the achievement of these goals.


The recent court ruling in Texas signifies a growing trend of increased scrutiny on air pollution permits and the enforcement of pollution control standards. The involvement of the courts in these matters highlights the importance of protecting the environment and public health. By upholding the principles of sustainable development, such as those outlined in the SDGs, we can work towards a cleaner and healthier future for all.


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