Climate Change & Protecting our Environment

Residents should never have to worry about the quality of the air they breathe or the environmental conditions in which they’re raising their families. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is working to shift from the County’s environmental services from a reactive to a proactive posture when it comes to protecting our communities.

Key Accomplishments

  • Reformed environmental protection, monitoring, and enforcement. The County has allocated over $11 million to build a state-of-the-art air monitoring network, increased the size of the pollution control department by over 50%, and added resources for HazMat First Responders. The actions taken thus far represent the most significant enhancement of County environmental protections in at least 30 years.
  • Acknowledging the reality of climate change. Harris County has begun using the latest science from “Atlas-14,” a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rain model that ensures decisions we make on flood control measures are based on more accurate estimates of future flooding rather than what has happened in the past.
  • Taking steps to develop a climate action plan for Harris County. County officials are studying nationwide best practices to use in developing our own County Climate Action Plan (CAP).
  • Taking steps to transition to a green fleet. County officials are working with Evolve Houston, a nonprofit focused on increasing vehicle electrification in Harris County, to conduct a fleet electrification analysis with the eventual goal of transitioning Harris County’s fleet to electric vehicles.
  • Requiring that all new County facilities follow LEED energy efficiency standards. Harris County currently owns and maintains 9 LEED Certified Buildings, including LEED Platinum for the first government facility in the gulf coast region.
  • Promoting sustainability in our infrastructure developments. Harris County Engineering Department is a member of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure and employs more than 30 Envision Sustainability Professionals, a program that provides a holistic framework for evaluating and rating the community, environmental, and economic benefits of all types and sizes of infrastructure projects.
  • Transitioning to efficient, LED lighting. A total of five projects for conversion to LED lighting in downtown buildings and facilities have been completed for $900,000, with over $1M in additional projects currently underway. Additionally, all of our Traffic signals now utilize LED signals.
  • Created an Office of Sustainability (OS) to combat the underlying causes and disproportionate impact of climate change on marginalized communities by making community-driven improvements to air, water, and soil quality, committing to the use of clean energy, improving flood resilience with natural infrastructure practices, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and providing every resident access to quality green space.
  • Procured the RAAM, a state-of-the-art van equipped with air quality-monitoring devices to detect pollutants in the air on blue-sky days, immediately identify harmful chemicals during emergency situations, and generate thermal images to locate chemical leaks and identify additional locations for low-cost fixed air monitors. This equipment will allow a faster response to chemical fire incidents.
  • Allocated over $1 million to create additional HCPH positions to assist with environmental health and emergency response, including physicians, a chemical response planner, public health hygienist, an environmental toxicologist, and environmental epidemiologists.
  • Increased inspections of concrete batch plants to one per week for both air quality and stormwater quality.  Until then, Harris County Pollution Control Services (PCS) only conducted inspections in unincorporated Harris County and deferred to the City of Houston to conduct inspections within city limits. PCS now inspects concrete batch plants within City limits, completing significantly more inspections than in the past. Increasing the number and frequency of inspections better equips the County to hold plants accountable and identify instances of noncompliance with permits that might otherwise go unnoticed.
  • Holding polluters accountable. We’ve hired four dedicated environmental prosecutors to hold large industrial firms accountable in criminal court, and have dedicated pollution control investigators to inspect facilities that are not up to snuff.