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Texas energy lobby hopes state Supreme Court will stop Houston pollution regulation.

February 26, 2015

Texas’ largest oil and gas trade association has joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Exxon Mobil Corp., and Dow Chemical Co., forming the Business Coalition for Clean Air Appeals Group (BCCA) urging the Texas Supreme Court to strike down Houston’s clean-air ordinance according to a report by Law 360. On February 20, 2015 the Texas Texas Supreme Court sealSupreme Court agreed to hear the case. BCCA and the City of Houston are set to face off before the state’s highest court March 25th.

The Houston ordinance requires pollution-emitting entities to register with the city and pay a fee, but the group of companies argued in its July appeal that such rules are preempted by state law.

The Texas Oil and Gas Association, a state energy lobby, filed an amicus brief, arguing that an appeals court that overturned the district court decision barring the ordinances gave the city power that should belong solely to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“The Ordinance allows the City to criminally enforce its own interpretation of the Texas Clean Air Act without any involvement of the TCEQ,” the brief said. “Moreover, the City Ordinance is designed to deliberately circumvent State law regarding enforcement of environmental statutes.”

Sustaining the ordinance could cause confusion, allowing for local authorities to regulate activities normally controlled by the state and create inconsistent interpretations of law throughout the state, the lobby said.

“The State of Texas has extensively addressed air quality in Texas,” the brief said. “If the City’s Ordinance is sustained in this case, in an area that the State has comprehensively and pervasively regulated, then the possibility of conflicting and contradictory local intrusions into other areas addressed by State regulation will only be encouraged, with similar deleterious effects.”

Experts say the challenge brought by BCCA to the ordinance addresses an underdeveloped area of state law, with the Texas high court having the opportunity to decide the extent that home-rule cities in Texas can enact local regulation without coming into conflict with state law.

The case could have broad implications across the state, including in Denton, where voters approved a fracking ban in last year’s election and where, hours later, Texas Oil and Gas Association and the state’s General Land Office filed lawsuits aimed at preventing the ban from taking effect.

What this means to you
On February 20, 2015 the Texas Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that could decide the future of the City of Houston’s clean air ordinance. Big industries say cities don’t have that right to require entities to register with the city and are trying to stop them.

MIRATECH can help
Contact MIRATECH to discuss emission control and compliance options.