On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court struck down Houston’s air quality ordinances, ruling the city had overstepped its authority to police local polluters. In an 8-1 decision, the justices ruled that local ordinances requiring businesses to pay registration fees and allowing criminal sanctions for emissions violations were inconsistent with state law. The justices wrote in their opinion that if the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) chose not to take enforcement action against a company, it did not give the city the legal authority to step in. “By authorizing criminal prosecution even when the TCEQ determines an administrative or civil remedy — or even no penalty at all — to be the appropriate remedy, the city effectively moots the TCEQ’s discretion and the TCEQ’s authority to select an enforcement mechanism,” the opinion states. “This is impermissible.” This decision appears to be another episode in the continuing jurisdictional struggle in Texas over state and local regulation of environmental issues.
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Texas Supreme Court strikes down Houston air quality ordinances
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