Groups Sue EPA to Hold Texas Accountable for Coal’s Year-Round Haze Pollution

Austin, Texas Just days after wildfire haze plagued much of North America, a coalition of organizations is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address another kind of traveling haze that also has roots in climate change yet pollutes our skies all year.

Today, the Sierra Club, Environmental Integrity Project, and National Parks Conservation Association filed a lawsuit against EPA for failing to act on plans from Texas and seven other states for the second phase of the federal Regional Haze Rule. The organizations aim to compel EPA to decide if the plan submitted by the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) complies with the Clean Air Act. Because the TCEQ plan is so inadequate, they argue that EPA should reject it and then bring the state into compliance by limiting emissions from almost all coal plants in Texas, which combine to be the biggest source of haze pollution in the country.

Regional haze is largely caused by sulfur dioxide pollution, from coal power plants and industrial sources, that travels across a region and dirties skies year-round. The Clean Air Act requires states to reduce haze in national parks and wilderness areas, almost all of which are impacted by the pollution. Texas haze pollution reduces the visibility of scenic vistas at both Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains national parks by as much as 70% (view clear/hazy photos here) and also creates haze over federal lands in neighboring states. (See list below for Texas coal plants most responsible for haze pollution.)

The plan from TCEQ, whose commissioners are appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, would do nothing to decrease haze. Despite EPA’s mandate to either approve or reject state plans, the agency has taken no action by the statutory deadline. This has left our national parks unprotected from the pollution, which also harms the health of people in marginalized communities near coal plants. Because this deals with the second phase of the federal regional haze rule, it has the potential to touch almost all of the 14 coal plants in the state, which are also massive carbon emitters fueling the global climate crisis that increases events like the wildfires burning millions of acres in Canada.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, and the complaint can be found here. The organizations are represented by Sierra Club and Earthjustice.


“We hope this action leads the EPA to hold the TCEQ to the same standards as every other state environmental agency,” said Gabriel Clark-Leach, senior attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project’s Austin office. “Texans who visit our national parks or live near polluting plants should get the protection they’re entitled to under federal law.”

“Just like its round one haze plan, TCEQ’s round two haze plan was a plan to do nothing,” said Josh Smith, an attorney with the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program. “This lawsuit is needed to jolt EPA into action to reject the inadequate plan and put forth a strong federal plan that would actually decrease haze as federal law requires and as Congress intended.”

“Texans deserve clean air and the right to connect with nature on our public lands such as Big Bend National Park, which have been home to Indigenous communities for thousands of years,” said Joedy Yglesias, a native Texan, former park ranger, member of the NPCA Texas regional council, and leader with Latino Outdoors. “The TCEQ needs to hold these coal plants accountable for cleaning up their air pollution that affects not only people living next door, but also people who travel from all over the state to visit our parks.”

Texas Coal Plants Most Responsible for Haze Pollution (listed in order of emissions) 

Martin Lake (Rusk County, near Tatum)
Coleto Creek (Goliad County, southeast of Victoria in South Texas)
Parish (Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston)
Welsh (Titus County, southeast of Mt. Pleasant in East Texas)
Tolk (Lamb County, east of Muleshoe in the Panhandle)
Fayette (Fayette County, near La Grange)
Harrington (Potter County, north of Amarillo)
Limestone (Limestone County, northeast of Jewett)
JK Spruce (Bexar County, near San Antonio)

The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas, that is dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health and the environment.

Media Contact:
Brendan Gibbons,