How the TCEQ Helps Houston Air Stay So Fresh and Clean

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]

2 Comment

  • The best part of the article was the reaction of one of the chemical plant managers when a TCEQ investigator presented the manager with a serious of violations. He said (and I am paraphrasing from memorey), “But we gave $4 million to the Republican Party!!!”

    The leadership of the TCEQ (like the leadership of this entire state) is a joke and bought and paid for by the very industries they are supposedly regulating on our behalf. They are not looking out for the health and safety of the public. Instead, they are looking out for the health and safety of the balance sheets of huge petrochemical companies.

    Ever wonder why we have so many chemical plant and refinery explosions in this state when compared to places like New Jersey and California (who also have large numbers of such facilities)?

  • Well, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are coming up, an opportunity for the Annual Unscientific Anecdotal Take A Whiff Holiday Bingo. First thing in the morning on these two holidays, open your windows or step onto your porch or balcony, face the southeast, and take a big sniff of the air. 99% guarantee you’ll get a strong odor of Eau de Ship Channel. After 20 or so years of this I’m convinced that the plants take advantage of the holiday (no one manning the phones at TCEQ) to flush the toilets, as it were, and let the emissions fly.