06/29/10 8:16pm

That proposed underground pipeline linking Houston to the luscious bounty of Canadian strip-mined tar sands will sneak into Houston from the east, and won’t even make it inside Beltway 8, according to this map released by the State Department. The line is scheduled to carry up to 500,000 barrels a day of crude oil to Texas alone — probably more than 8 times as much oil as the successors to the Deepwater Horizon are currently delivering directly to the Gulf of Mexico.

TransCanada plans to stitch the pipeline over the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies water to part of Texas and much of the Midwest.

The pipeline also would cross more than 30 rivers and streams in Texas and could run underneath the Big Thicket National Preserve, said environmentalists and landowners.

Texas and Oklahoma portions of the 2,000-mile-long Keystone XL pipeline are still under review; this Friday is the deadline for public comment on the draft environmental impact statement released in April.

[TransCanada VP Robert Jones] defended the project, saying pipelines are the safest way to transport oil. The company will use pipe that has been employed safely in Canada for years and bury it 4 feet deep, he said.

Jones also downplayed concerns about Houston’s air quality, saying the Canadian crude is replacing oil from other sources and has not led to changes in the refineries’ pollution permits.

But [Matthew] Tejada, of Air Alliance Houston, found fault with TransCanada’s position. He said the tar-sands crude when refined will emit higher levels of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter into the air than conventional oil.

Map: U.S. Department of State

03/03/10 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WE’RE FROM THE TEXAS MEDICAL CENTER AND WE’RE HERE TO HELP “Given all the refineries, industrial plants, chemical plants, railroads, stagnant swamps and cesspools, traffic pollution, and the like that plague this hellhole of a town, it is a freaking wonder that Houston doesn’t lead the nation in cancer cases.” [Random Poster, commenting on Today’s Odor in Baytown Is Brought to You by ExxonMobil]

03/03/10 10:44am

TODAY’S ODOR IN BAYTOWN IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY EXXONMOBIL The most recent smell, of rotten eggs, has been claimed by the folks at ExxonMobil’s Baytown Refinery. Fortunately, local news outlet Reuters UK is on the story, filing one of the few reports on the incident, which we quote here in full: “Exxon Mobil said Wednesday there was an operational issue at its 562,500 barrel-per-day refinery in Baytown, Texas but gave no details as to the scope and units involved. ‘I can tell you there was no impact to production,’ said Kevin Allexon, a spokesman for the company.” [Reuters UK]

12/23/09 10:41am

HOW THE TCEQ HELPS HOUSTON AIR STAY SO FRESH AND CLEAN 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]

01/08/08 12:35pm

Baytown Sunrise

That beautiful flare glowing from atop ExxonMobil Chemical’s Olefins plant in Baytown last Thursday night wasn’t just a pretty New Year’s display for the city. It came with a couple of bonuses: two “not specifically authorized” releases, including 6,857 pounds of benzene, plus a bunch of other fun toxins.

Not to be outdone, the nearby ExxonMobil oil refinery decided to celebrate the new year in its own special way, releasing a bouquet of smelly agents including 3,010 lbs. of neurotoxicant carbonyl sulfide into our lovely Gulf air.

Now when Houston visitors ask you why the east side of the city has an odor reminiscent of cooked cabbage, you’ll be able to explain why.

Meanwhile, two environmental organizations are interrupting the normal course of business over in Deer Park with a pesky lawsuit:

“On average of more than once a week for at least the past five years, Shell has reported that it violated its own permit limits by spewing a wide range of harmful pollutants into the air around the Deer Park plant,” said Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas.

Photo of Baytown sunrise: Bill Jacobus

12/18/07 12:16pm

Firevase by Plodes Studio

Here’s another fine item sure to light up the interior of any sophisticated home, but also certain to warm the hearts of patriotic Houstonians as well. It’s the Firevase, a beautiful ceramic container for flowers or flames from Plodes Studio.

The Firevase is another original decorative piece from the mind of John Paul Plauché, a local designer with a remarkable ability to work images of the Houston landscape into his creations.

Plauché calls the Firevase an “indoor or dense-city version of a firepit.” So much nicer than that mock or simply unused fireplace, no? According to Plauché, the firevase runs on a nontoxic clean-burning alcohol gel-fuel can called Sunjel:

The Firevase attempts to bring everything you enjoy about an outdoor firepit to your tabletop or somewhere where you can’t have a firepit. It’s another thing I enjoyed growing up in a small town just east of Houston. It’s about scale [and] my past experiences of living in dense apartment buildings [where you] simply cannot have such amenities . . .

The vase’s tripod shape is inspired by two kinds of plants: the kind that grow in the ground, and the kind that sprout near Pasadena and on Houston’s scenic eastern reaches:

It can be a seasonal affair if you’d like. Fire in the winter and flowers in the summer. Its shape is inspired by root branching systems, and the stark nature of chemical plant structures that can found off hwy 225.

Refineries, chemical plants, flares, and flowers: at last, interior designers discover Houston’s true local style! Below the fold: more photos of this hot item, plus how you can light up your own home with one for the holidays.