Federal Judge rules that Formosa Plastics is liable for pollution of Texas’ Lavaca Bay

A federal judge yesterday ruled in favor of citizen activists who sued Formosa Plastics Corp., Texas for polluting Lavaca Bay and nearby shores and waterways.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt ruled that Formosa had violated the Clean Water Act and Texas environmental law by illegally discharging plastics and powder into Lavaca Bay and nearby Cox Creek.

“It’s wonderful to see justice being done,” said Diane Wilson, who filed the suit against Formosa, along with co-plaintiffs from the San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper. “We have fought for so long to protect the beauty and health of our natural environment. We’re one step closer to making it happen. Not only is this a win, it’s a big win.”

“This is a victory for the environment and for citizens using the Clean Water Act to protect their rivers, streams, and bays,” said Amy R. Johnson, a contract attorney for TRLA and the lead counsel in the suit. “The judge found our evidence to be very convincing.”

The trial now moves into the remedy and penalty phase. Formosa faces fines of as much as $184 million, which reflects the maximum federal fine for violating the Clean Water Act.

In his opinion, U.S. District judge Kenneth M. Hoyt described Formosa as a “serial offender” with “extensive, historical and repetitive” releases of plastics that it failed to report. The judge ruled that Formosa had violated both the federal Clean Water Act and its permit issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Wilson sued after she and members of the San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper extensively documented the discharge of plastic pellets into Lavaca Bay and Cox Creek. During the March trial, Wilson and her co-plaintiffs presented 30 containers containing 2,428 samples of plastics that they found in the waterways and on the shores as well as photos and video of the Formosa’s discharge. “These witnesses provided detailed, credible testimony regarding plastics discharged by Formosa…,” Judge Hoyt wrote.

The information in this article was sent in a press release from Nancy Nusser, Press Officer, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA).

Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to about 23,000 low-income Texans in 68 counties. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and access to justice for low-income Texans by providing high-quality legal assistance and related educational services.