State Rep. Jarvis Johnson helped keep a concrete batch plant from operating in Acres Homes.
Now he’s trying to minimize the impacts of such businesses all across the city and state, along with helping neighborhood residents avoid close calls like the one his constituents had with Soto Ready Mix.
Johnson, who represents Acres Homes and parts of Oak Forest and Garden Oaks in District 139, proposed three state laws Monday related to permitting for concrete batch plants. According to a news release from Johnson’s office, the bills aim to reduce the impacts the notoriously dusty and noisy manufacturing facilities have on nearby residents while ensuring that affected citizens have adequate notification when a concrete batch plant applies for an air quality permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
Monday was the first day state lawmakers could file bills ahead of the 87th Texas Legislature session, which begins in January.
“Concrete batch plants have been an issue in my district for years, and without improved regulations the problem (will) exacerbate as the city and county grow,” Johnson said in a statement. “It is by no mistake communities like Acres Homes have some of the highest concentration of concrete batch plants in Harris County. I will do everything I can to improve the communities I represent.”
One of Johnson’s proposed laws, House Bill 50, would require concrete batch plants to obtain an enhanced controls permit. Such permits are designed to limit dust and noise by requiring operators to pave all roads and parking lots on their properties, utilize water sprinklers or other dust suppresants, add an extra 100-foot buffer between equipment and the plant’s property line and require at least 440 yards between the plant’s main output location and a home, school or church.
House Bill 56 would double the required distance between a plant’s central bag house from 440 yards to 880 yards away from a home, school or church, Johnson said. House Bill 65 would require a batch plant applying for an air quality permit to mail an application notice to every residence within 880 yards of the proposed site, so impacted residents have an adequate opportunity to participate in the TCEQ’s public comment period prior to the issuance of a permit.
In the case of Soto Ready Mix, which sought to operate a concrete batch plant at 3411 De Soto St., near homes and a city park, its application for an air quality permit was initially denied in 2018. TCEQ executive director Toby Baker ruled that the company’s subsequent application met the requirements of applicable state law, which prompted nearby residents to push back and take the case before the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
On Jan. 22, one day before a hearing was set to take place, Soto Ready Mix withdrew its application. Two weeks earlier, Johnson, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and State Sen. John Whitmire spoke out against the batch plant’s potential operation in Acres Homes, a predominantly Black community.
“HB 56 is integral to stopping environmental racism seen in Houston and across other large cities in Texas,” Johnson said. “If HB 56 becomes law, batch plants like the aforementioned would not be eligible for a permit, as it was feet away from both a public park and someone’s home.”