Gov. Greg Abbott has come to the aid of a collation of oil and chemical companies petitioning the Texas Supreme Court to kill a city of Houston ordinance purportedly in conflict with clean air regulations enacted by the state.
On Aug. 4 Abbott filed an amicus brief in support of the BCAA Appeal Group, a collection of Houston businesses who sued the city seven years ago in hopes of, in the words of Abbott, stopping “city council’s unlawful attempt to impose increased regulatory burdens.”
“The Texas Constitution and Texas statutes prohibit city officials from interfering with the State’s enforcement of environmental regulations,” Abbott said in a statement. “I am committed to promoting economic development and job growth in the state of Texas by reducing the regulatory burden that drives up the cost of doing business.”
Abbott and the BCAA Appeal Group believe a trial court was right to hold the city’s 2007 ordinance establishes a city-administered air-permitting program inconsistent with the Texas Clean Air Act, court records show.
Conversely, the city contends that requiring pollution-emitting entities to register and pay a fee for registration does not conflict with any provision of the TCAA, court records state.
The ordinance criminalizes the operation of a facility that fails to register and pay the fee.
“The Texas Constitution and Texas statutes prohibit city officials from interfering with the state’s enforcement of environmental regulations,” Abbott said.
“I am committed to promoting economic development and job growth in the state of Texas by reducing the regulatory burden that drives up the cost of doing business. The City of Houston’s unlawful ordinance imposes devastating consequences on Houston’s small businesses in particular, like auto repair shops, gas stations, and dry cleaners, who provide many of the city’s jobs.”
Abbott argues the city of Houston’s ordinance is unlawful because it conflicts with state law.
“State investigators at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality work closely with industrial polluters, big and small, to achieve lasting remediation and meaningful compliance with state environmental protection laws,” Abbott said.
“As my office’s brief to the Supreme Court explains, the additional layer of regulatory oversight imposed by the city of Houston unfairly penalizes small businesses and is not the most effective way to promote compliance with the state’s environmental laws.”
The governor’s brief asserts the ordinance disrupts the TCEQ’s ability to ascertain a facility’s compliance history and to also calculate civil penalties.
Abbott and the BCAA Appeal Group are asking Supreme Court justices to reverse a Houston appellate court ruling that overturned a summary judgment win for the business collation, court records show.
The First Court of Appeals found that the Clean Air Act does not preempt the city’s ordinance.
Oral arguments in the case will take place on Sept. 2.
The BCCAAG is represented by the Baker Botts law firm.
Supreme Court case No. 13-076