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Texas Supreme Court Rules for Baker Botts Client in Clean Air Act Preemption Case

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HOUSTON, TEXAS, April 29, 2016 - Baker Botts L.L.P., a leading international law firm, won a significant victory today on behalf of its client, the BCCA Appeal Group, in an 8-1 Texas Supreme Court ruling. The Court’s opinion in BCCA Appeal Group v. City of Houston emphasizes the importance of statewide uniformity in setting and enforcing Texas air-quality standards. For that reason, it upholds the essential role of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) across Texas and finds preempted a City of Houston ordinance that departed from that statewide uniformity. 

The BCCA Appeal Group is a coalition of industrial companies with operations in Texas, focused on the twin goals of clean air and a strong regional economy.

“We are pleased with the Court’s decision today in what is a cutting edge area of law that greatly affects the state’s energy and environmental standards processes,” said Evan Young, a Baker Botts appellate lawyer who presented oral argument before the Texas Supreme Court. “This ruling that Houston’s ordinance is preempted by the Texas Clean Air Act is a win for the state’s standard for clean air and also for the state’s economy.”

In Mr. Young’s argument, he stated that Houston’s ordinance was inconsistent with the enforcement requirements of state law, which are implemented by the TCEQ. “The Houston ordinance turns what should be an administrative or civil law dispute about pollution into a local, criminal matter,” he said.

The BCCA Appeal Group garnered support from the Texas Oil and Gas Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Chemical Council, and others—including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who filed an amicus brief in favor of the Group’s position. Today’s opinion by the Court, written by Justice Paul Green, noted the Governor’s amicus brief, which explained that long-term environmental benefits depend on clear and predictable rules and enforcement, making it essential for Texas that these important state environmental laws not be subject to constantly varying enforcement priorities or standards across Texas.

The Group argued that the Texas Legislature drafted the Texas Clean Air Act to ensure that the TCEQ would have the primary role in enforcement and that cities would play a supporting role. “Clean air is not just a local concern—it affects the whole state,” said Mr. Young. “The Court’s decision today upholds the integrity of Texas environmental law and reaffirms the important role of clear, evenhanded, statewide regulation.”

Baker Botts team members include: Evan Young (Partner, Austin); Macey Reasoner Stokes (Partner, Houston); Matthew Kuryla (Partner, Houston).

 

ABOUT BAKER BOTTS L.L.P.
Baker Botts is an international law firm of approximately 725 lawyers practicing throughout a network of 13 offices around the globe. Based on our experience and knowledge of our clients' industries, we are recognized as a leading firm in the technology, energy, and life sciences sectors. Since 1840, we have provided creative and effective legal solutions for our clients while demonstrating an unrelenting commitment to excellence. For more information, please visit bakerbotts.com.

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