One Houston neighborhood is putting Texas’ air quality rules to the test. They’re losing.
by Erin Douglas

Houston Chronicle
Aug. 8, 2019

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…When a small group of neighbors in Acres Homes found out a company planned to build a concrete-mixing plant next door, they launched into action: They held meetings to raise awareness. They voiced concerns to the state’s environmental agency. They called every public official they could think of, from their City Council member to their U.S. representative.

Yet after nearly two years of presenting petitions, pressuring politicians and arguing with regulators, residents in the northwest Houston community are facing the likely prospect that Soto Ready Mix, a small Houston company, will get to build its concrete batch plant just across the street from a park where children play. Making concrete is a notoriously dusty process that spews small particles into the air that can cause asthma attacks, cardiac arrest and premature death, depending on how much is inhaled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“You’re putting it right in the heart of Acres Homes,” said Charles Ingram, a resident of Acres Homes for 40 years, to regulators at a July meeting. “You have no regard for the people. And you’re telling me this is business as usual?”

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The fierce opposition to the concrete plant is a textbook example of community organizing, activism and participation in public policy, but after watching the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality steadily advance Soto Ready Mix’s air permit request, Acres Homes residents are wondering if any of it really matters. Environmental advocates fear what’s playing out here on De Soto Street is proof of what they’ve long feared: The state’s public participation process is just for show….

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