TCEQ (Texas Environmental Agency) Sues to Prevent Atmosphere from Being Considered A Public Resource

It may at root be trying to avoid an unfunded mandate, but the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is bringing a court case to oppose the principle that the atmosphere is a public resource which it is the state’s duty to protect.

Texas Tribune reports:

As part of a national environmental movement, a group of youths in 2011 demanded that the commission enact steps to reduce greenhouse gases. The agency refused, and the youths’ parents sued on their behalf.

A year later, Travis County District Judge Gisela Triana ruled in the agency’s favor, saying it could use its own discretion and decide not to institute greenhouse gas regulations. But the commission still appealed, insisting that the court did not have jurisdiction over the case to begin with and that she made an “improper declaratory judgment” — that Texas is responsible for protecting “all natural resources of the State including the air and atmosphere.”

Triana agreed with the plaintiffs that a tenet of U.S. common law known as the “public trust doctrine” requires the government to protect the atmosphere as a resource for public use. The agency had disagreed, saying Texas’ duty to protect resources under public trust were “limited to the waters of the state.”

State lawyers late last month argued in front of the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals that Triana’s comments were beyond the scope of the case and should be “vacated.

Both sides agree that the debate is largely symbolic, but it’s interesting that the State of Texas is so convinced that its responsibilities lie in actually avoiding any responsibility for the air that it is willing to appeal the judgment.


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