Federal Judge Rules Formosa Plastics is Liable for Pollution of Texas' Waterways

June 28, 2019

Amy R. Johnson, Attorney (503) 939-2996
Diane Wilson, Plaintiff (361) 218-2353
Nancy Nusser, Communications Director (410) 934-9588 or (512) 374-2764; nnusser@trla.org

VICTORIA, Texas (June 28, 2019) -- A federal judge yesterday ruled in favor of citizen activists who sued Formosa Plastics Corp., Texas for egregious pollution of Lavaca Bay and nearby waterways. U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt ruled that Formosa had violated the federal Clean Water Act and Texas environmental law by illegally discharging plastic pellets and powders into Lavaca Bay and Cox Creek. The plaintiffs, former shrimper Diane Wilson and members of the San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper, are represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) and private attorneys David Frederick and David Bright.

"It's wonderful to see justice being done," Wilson said. "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."

Plastic pellet discharge from the Formosa Point Comfort plant collected in November 2018.

Plastic pellet discharge from the Formosa Point Comfort plant collected in November 2018.

The trial, which opened in March, now moves into the remedy and penalty phase. Formosa faces fines of as much as $166 million, which reflects the maximum penalty under the Clean Water Act.

"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 TRLA contract attorney and lead counsel in the case. "The judge found our evidence to be very convincing."

In his opinion, Judge Hoyt described Formosa as a "serial offender" with "extensive, historical, and repetitive" discharges of plastics that it failed to report. The judge ruled that Formosa had violated both the Clean Water Act and its permit issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)

Wilson and Waterkeeper members sued after they 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 they found in the water and on shores, as well as photos and videos of Formosa's discharges. "These witnesses provided detailed, credible testimony regarding plastics discharged by Formosa...," Judge Hoyt wrote.

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.

nancy nusser