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U.S. to probe Texas air regulator's rulings for racial bias

·1-min read

Oct 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday said it would investigate the Texas air regulator over allegations of racial bias in rulings involving pollution in Black neighborhoods by a refinery waste recycler.

The agency accepted a complaint against the state over its oversight of Port Arthur, Texas-based Oxbow Calcining, which produces petroleum coke from oil refinery byproducts.

An environmental advocacy group has alledged the state's air quality regulator violated residents' civil rights by allowing the plant to operate without a scrubber to capture sulfur dioxide. Between 2016 and 2019, the plant released about 22 million pounds per year of sulfur dioxide, an eye and lung irritant.

A spokesperson for the state regulator Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said it had no immediate comment.

“I am encouraged by the response of the EPA to investigate our concerns," said John Beard, a former Port Arthur city councilor and founder of advocacy group Port Arthur Community Action Network.

The Oxbow Calcining plant is located in a predominately Black area with 98% of the residents within a three mile radius classified as people of color and 62% as lower income, the group said. (Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by David Gregorio)

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