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Patrick Protects Communities From Pollution As Long As They’re Rural and White

Texans can count on Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to have their backs against factories that want to pollute their communities, provided those communities aren’t poor, minority-majority, or in an urban area, of course.

Patrick made a personal appearance at a Grayson County town hall meeting Monday to hear the concerns of residents opposed to the building of a 600-acre cement plant and quarry nearby. The project, owned by Black Mountain, could potentially pump large amounts of toxic particles into the air and water, leading to increased risk for lung disease and cancer.

By the end of the meeting, Patrick was promising to work against the project.

“I need to get up here and hear from the people so that when I go to check to try to get this stopped, that I can say I’ve been there. I visited the plants, I’ve toured the city, I’ve talked to the people so you have as much credibility as you can because this seems like a really bad idea,” he said. “I don’t think it helps the economy, I don’t think it helps the air quality.”

Grayson County is a rural Republican stronghold. Patrick has not visited meetings that involve similar plants that put poor urban minority communities at risk. Harris County, home to the state’s largest city, Houston, is currently suing Texcon Ready Mix over repeated violations of air quality and pollution laws. The north Houston facility is near the historically Black neighborhood of Kashmere Gardens, a place that has seen decades of environmental racism.

The lawsuit found that the site had failed various inspections over a three-year period without improving pollution levels. Texcon operates five sites in the Houston-area, all of them near poor marginalized communities. Those communities have also held numerous town meetings and called for state assistance. Patrick has not put in an appearance at any of them.

One upside of Patrick’s visit to Grayson County is that he has asked for a halt on all new plant permits until the 2025 legislative session. That means that communities where new plants are planned won’t have to worry about them until they get a chance to speak at the legislature.

This does nothing for the existing plants, however. In Harris County alone there are 188 concrete plants, about a third of them within walking distance of an elementary school or a daycare. Almost all are in depressed or marginalized neighborhoods, and their residents suffer considerable health risks from them.

Unfortunately, those communities are usually represented by Democrats, and the Texas GOP seems to have little time for them. Patrick is possibly spending time fighting pollution in rural areas to shore up the party’s image with such districts following rural Republicans’ revolt against school vouchers. Regardless, Patrick has made the state’s priorities clear: pollution is only an issue if it affects people who vote for him.

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.

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