Department of Justice announced today that it has opened an
environmental justice investigation into the City of Houston’s
operations, policies and practices related to illegal dumping. The
investigation, which will be led by the Civil Rights Division, will
examine whether the City responds to requests for municipal services,
including in response to illegal dumping, in a manner that discriminates
against Black and Latino Houston residents in violation of federal
civil rights laws.
“Illegal dumpsites not only attract rodents, mosquitos and other
vermin that pose health risks, but they can also contaminate surface
water and impact proper drainage, making areas more susceptible to
flooding,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice
Department’s Civil Rights Division. “No one in the United States should
be exposed to risk of illness and other serious harm because of
ineffective solid waste management or inadequate enforcement programs.
We will conduct a fair and thorough investigation of these environmental
justice concerns and their impact on Black and Latino communities in
the City of Houston.”
“Illegal dumpsites can raise significant concerns regarding public
health and safety, property values, and quality of life,” said U.S.
Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery for the Southern District of Texas. “We look
forward to working with the Civil Rights Division to ensure the City of
Houston is in compliance with its federal civil rights obligations.”
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 (Title VI). Title VI prohibits recipients of federal financial
assistance from discriminating on the basis of race, color or national
The Civil Rights Division’s Federal Coordination and Compliance
Section is conducting this investigation with the support of the U.S.
Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. Prior to the
announcement, the department informed the City of Houston’s mayor’s
office and legal department of the investigation’s initiation.
Addressing discriminatory environmental and health impacts through
enforcement of the nation’s civil rights laws is a top priority of the
Department of Justice. In May 2022, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced the creation of the first-ever Office of Environmental Justice. He also announced the issuance of the Justice Department’s Comprehensive Environmental Justice Enforcement Strategy,
which provides a roadmap for using the department’s civil and criminal
enforcement authorities and tools, including civil rights authorities,
to achieve environmental justice. In July 2022, the department released
its 2022-26 Strategic Plan,
which includes protecting civil rights and advancing environmental
justice as an area of focus. In November 2021, the Civil Rights Division
its first Title VI environmental justice investigation of Justice
Department recipients, the Alabama Department of Public Health and
Lowndes County Health Department.
“The Justice Department’s recent creation of the Office of
Environmental Justice and a Comprehensive Environmental Justice
Enforcement Strategy affirm our deep commitment to pursuing equal
justice under law,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the
Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This
investigation exemplifies the department’s commitment to alleviating
disproportionate environmental burdens borne all too often by
communities of color, low-income communities and tribal communities.”
Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section by email at TX.Houston.EJ@usdoj.gov
or by phone at 1-888-TITLE-06 (1-888-848-5306). Additional information
about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt. Additional information about the Environment and Natural Resources Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/enrd.