Combing through emissions reports for 20 local refineries and chemical plants from February 2003 through October of this year, reporter Chris Vogel notes how the peculiar accounting method employed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality seriously underrepresents Houston-area emissions events: “In slightly more than six and a half years, the 20 plants pumped out 4,864,730 pounds of sulfur dioxide, 452,080 pounds of carcinogens and a total of 20,716,547 pounds of pollutants during emission events . . . The Press discovered that individual chemicals at the 20 facilities exceeded the limit 12,701 times during the six and a half years. [But] TCEQ documents obtained through an open records request for the 20 plants show that the agency found 469 violations over the past six and a half years, 240 of which listed excess pollution during an emission event as the reason. Those 240 violations represent less than 2 percent of the number of times that individual pollutants exceeded their limit during emission events. Many people, including former TCEQ Commissioner Larry Soward, see this as one of the ways TCEQ gives industry a big break.” [Houston Press]
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