Justice Department investigating city of Houston over environmental justice concerns

Justice Department investigating city of Houston over environmental justice concerns

July 22, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 08: U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on March 08, 2022 in Washington, DC. The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on combating the rise in hate crimes. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will be leading the probe, with Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke promising to conduct “a fair and thorough investigation.”

The Justice Department announced on Friday that it would be investigating environmental racism in Houston—specifically, whether illegal dumping is disproportionately affecting Black and Latino communities. The agency’s Civil Rights Division will be leading the probe with support from the Southern District of Texas’ U.S. Attorney’s Office. According to a press release, “the investigation will examine whether the City’s enforcement and solid waste management operations, policies and practices in response to illegal dumping have resulted in discrimination against Black and Latino residents in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” The problem is so rampant that Houston’s City Council doubled its fines from $2,000 to $4,000 last year. A KHOU article about the fines even quoted residents of Houston Gardens, located in the northeast area that the Justice Department is focused on in its new investigation.

Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke explicitly cited Houston Gardens as well as the Trinity neighborhood, both of which make up a section of Neighborhood 48. “Residents in the upper Neighborhood 48… frequently make calls complaining about the illegal dumping of household furniture, mattresses, tires, medical waste, trash, dead bodies, and vandalized ATM machines and other items dumped and abandoned in their community,” Clarke said in her remarks about the investigation. “The complaint alleges that the City’s denial of services, failure to enforce municipal codes and permit restrictions, and failure to adequately and equitably respond to illegal dumpsite concerns and service requests threaten the health and safety of Black and Latino people in Houston. These alleged acts also devalue the real property of Black and Latino Houstonians in violation of Title VI.”



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