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County Attorney Vince Ryan Sues MRH Clearing to Stop Illegal Burning

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan filed suit against MRH Clearing, Inc., on Jan. 30, alleging violations of numerous environmental laws.

The County Attorney’s lawsuit says that the defendants illegally disposed of solid waste, conducted illegal outdoor burning, and improperly operated an air curtain incinerator during land clearing operations, in violation of the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act, the Texas Clean Air Act, and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulations.

Since 2016, MRH Clearing, Inc. has disposed of land clearing waste on-site by burning it at various locations in Harris County. Sometimes the defendants conducted open burning and sometimes they used air curtain incinerators. These incinerators operate by forcefully projecting a curtain of air across an open pit in which combustion occurs.

When used properly, air curtain incinerators emit less smoke and fewer air particulates than open burning. When used improperly, they do not.

Investigations by the Harris County Pollution Control Services Department repeatedly found that the defendants failed to operate air curtain incinerators properly and that they sometimes burned tree debris without any incinerator. Some of the burn sites were close to places where people work or live and smoke from the burn locations blew into these areas. Employees from Pollution Control Services repeatedly attempted to educate the defendants about the requirements of Texas law with the hope that defendants would voluntarily come into compliance, but the defendants continue to break the law.

County investigators say the company burned at various sites in Harris County including on Highway 90 in east Harris County, Moonshine Hill Loop in Humble, and 6627 FM 1960 West in northwest Harris County. Investigators also found a massive amount of land clearing, construction, and demolition waste, over 1000 cubic yards, stored on the property at Moonshine Hill Loop in Humble.

In his lawsuit, County Attorney Ryan is requesting an injunction requiring the defendants to comply with Texas law, maintain their air curtain incinerators in good working condition, and provide annual training to their employees. In addition, the County Attorney seeks civil penalties for past violations. The Court can potentially assess civil penalties up to $25,000.00 for each day of violation.

“Because of MRH Clearing, Inc.’s continued failure to follow Texas law, I have filed suit against them to protect the people of Harris County from smoke blowing into areas where people live and work,” said County Attorney Ryan. “Keeping the air safe for residents is a priority for my office.”