Bayou City Waterkeeper Asks to Intervene in Federal Enforcement Action Involving Thousands of Clean Water Act Violations by the City of Houston
Houston, TX – On Wednesday, October 3, 2018, Bayou City Waterkeeper asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas for permission to intervene in an environmental enforcement action brought by the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Texas against the City of Houston late last month. Like Bayou City Waterkeeper’s lawsuit, also filed last month, the governmental action targets the City’s longstanding failure to resolve deficiencies in its wastewater treatment and collection systems. As a result of these delays, the City of Houston has continued to spill raw, untreated sewage into Houston-area yards, parks, and bayous, a problem which disproportionately affects Houston’s lower-income communities.
The EPA and State concede in legal filings that they have been negotiating a resolution to the City’s problem for several years. But the EPA and State have not disclosed any detail about these discussions or offered the public any clear timeline as to when they will finalize a draft consent decree. Instead, the only publicly visible action the EPA and State have taken is to ask the Court to impose a stay on all litigation.
“Bayou City Waterkeeper has sought to intervene because it is concerned that the EPA and State’s request for a stay signals that these governmental entities will carry on with their years-long negotiations indefinitely and fail to resolve the City’s problem,” said Kristen Schlemmer, Legal Director for Bayou City Waterkeeper, who added, “We would love to be proven wrong on this point.”
The Clean Water Act grants citizen groups like Bayou City Waterkeeper an unconditional right to intervene in environmental enforcement actions by governmental entities like the EPA or State. The EPA, the State, and City, however, have opposed Bayou City Waterkeeper’s intervention.
Through its intervention and citizen suit, Bayou City Waterkeeper seeks to inject the EPA, State, and City’s negotiation process with transparency and accountability and push their negotiations to a resolution that protects the Lower Galveston Bay watershed and its residents from future wastewater discharges.
“Given the drawn-out nature of negotiations so far, Bayou City Waterkeeper concluded that litigation offers the best path toward achieving the transparency and accountability that the public deserves – and toward resolving the City’s wastewater problem well into the future,” notes Schlemmer.
Bayou City Waterkeeper is represented by the firm Frederick, Perales, Allmon & Rockwell, P.C.