Harris Co. Attorney takes jab at Texas AG as county joins EPA: 'He's certainly not a scientist'

Shannon Ryan Image
Thursday, April 11, 2024
Harris Co. joins EPA's fight against Texas over air quality standards
Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee is drawing a line against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who sued the Environmental Protection Agency.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- The Harris County Attorney's Office has long been fighting to enact a stricter standard for particulate matter.

But when the federal government rolled out a stricter standard earlier this year, the State of Texas moved to quash it.

Harris County has now filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit to preserve the new standard.

As its name implies, particulate matter, also known as particle pollution, comprises particles, small but harmful pieces of airborne solids or liquids, which are everything from dirt and dust to soot and smoke.

Christian Menefee, the Harris County Attorney, said particulate matter contributes to higher rates of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and congenital disabilities.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the pollutants can also cause heart attacks. Earlier this year, the EPA strengthened its limits on particulate matter, meaning Harris County will need to dramatically cut levels to come into compliance.

"We have the largest petrochemical complex in the entire country in the (Houston) Ship Channel, home to more than 200,000 petrochemical facilities. All of that particulate matter is going into the air," Menefee said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the EPA, trying to roll the new standard back before its 2032 compliance deadline.

Paxton wrote, "The rule and its corresponding compliance costs will result in the closure of manufacturing and industrial facilities, putting workers out of jobs and devastating the surrounding communities."

Paxton also argued that the new rule is "not based on sound science."

"Last time I checked, Ken Paxton is barely a lawyer. He's certainly not a scientist. I don't think I'm going to take his advice on that one," Menefee replied.

The EPA predicts the new standard will prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths and 290,000 lost workdays by its 2032 compliance deadline.

"I don't believe that anybody should have to worry about whether their air is clean or their water is clean because of a certain zip code that they live in," Menefee said.

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