It’s time for Texas polluters to clean up their act

Pollution from refineries and chemical plants is making people sick, but regulators largely look the other way when big polluters break the law.

According to the UT School of Public Health, children living within two miles of the heavily industrialized Houston Ship Channel face a 56% greater risk of contracting leukemia, which researchers link to oil refineries and chemical plants. And our research has found that Houston-area petrochemical facilities violated clean air laws at least 405 times in 2015, illegally releasing 5 million pounds of pollution, including chemicals linked to asthma and cancer.

For example, ExxonMobil broke clean air laws at its Baytown oil refinery and chemical plant near Houston more than 4,000 times over five years—compounding Texas’ pollution problems and endangering the health of nearby residents.

Texas’ air quality is a major detriment to our quality of life and physical health. Poor air quality puts the most vulnerable among us, like children and seniors, at risk for asthma, strokes, and other illnesses. We have a moral responsibility to care for future generations and clean up Texas’ air to provide a better quality of life for those most at risk.

It’s clear we need to take firm action to force Texas’ biggest polluters to clean up their act. These companies should install stronger pollution controls to reduce pollution that can cause cancer and pay stiff penalties when they break the law.

A winning legal strategy

We’ve made progress in reducing air pollution in Texas in the last two decades, but more needs to be done. We need to get local, state and federal regulators to take enforcement action against big polluters and ensure clean air and compliance with the law. If citizens, communities, non-profit groups and our allies in government band together, we can force the big polluters to stop violating the law. Combining research, organizing of citizens and local elected officials, and litigation has cleaned up the air before and will again. 

Backed by our members, Environment Texas is standing up to ExxonMobil and other polluters, pressing regulators to act, and taking legal action. Using the same strategy that allowed us to force Shell Oil to clean up its Deer Park refinery in 2009, we’re exercising our right under the Clean Air Act to demand compliance with the law.

Cleaning up our air, one polluter at a time

Called by the Houston Chronicle one of the "toughest enforcers of clean-air laws in Texas," Environment Texas is taking a powerful stand against Texas' biggest air polluters.winning real results for clean air. Our lawsuits against Shell's Deer Park refinery and chemical plant and Chevron Phillips' Baytown chemical plant resulted in a reduction of one million pounds a year of air pollution in Houston. Our ongoing lawsuit against ExxonMobil's Baytown refinery offers the hope of further pollution reductions. We’ve also launched the Neighborhood Witness program to alert people living near polluting facilities when violations happen.

Click here to join our campaign, and urge the EPA to crack down on Texas' worst polluters.

Clean air updates

News Release | Environment Texas

US House votes to weaken Clean Air Act

HOUSTON - Today the U.S. House of Representatives voted 235-188 to adopt H.R. 806, sponsored by Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land). Dubbed the “Smoggy Skies Act,” the measure would permanently weaken the Clean Air Act, block updated ozone pollution limits for years, and impose sweeping changes to future standards for smog-forming ozone and five other major air pollutants.

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News Release | Environment Texas and Environmental Integrity Project

Texas fails to penalize 97 percent of illegal air pollution releases

Texas imposed penalties on less than 3 percent of illegal air pollution releases during industrial malfunctions and maintenance from 2011 through 2016, even though these incidents emitted more than 500 million pounds of pollutants, according to an analysis of state records by the Environmental Integrity Project and Environment Texas. A new report, “Breakdowns in Enforcement,” ranks the worst illegal air pollution events from oil refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities across Texas in 2016. The report concludes that the infrequency and small size of the state’s fines (averaging just three pennies per pound for pollution) are a major problem, because the lack of enforcement means that the owners are less likely to invest money to upgrade and repair known problems.

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Report | Environment Texas and Environmental Integrity Project

Breakdowns in Enforcement

A review of five years of state records by the Environmental Integrity Project and Environment Texas shows that the state imposed penalties on less than 3 percent of the illegal pollution releases (588 out of 24,839) reported by companies during maintenance or malfunctions from 2011 through 2016, even though the incidents released more than 500 million pounds of air pollution.

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News Release | Environment Texas

Governor Abbott vetoes clean air funding

AUSTIN — Governor Greg Abbott today vetoed funding for two crucial programs for reducing air pollution in the state. “This veto is penny wise and pound foolish,” said Brian Zabcik, the Clean Air & Clean Water Advocate at Environment Texas. “It sacrifices the long-term health of all Texans for an imagined financial gain.”

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News Release | Environment Texas

Electric car rebates bright spot in gloomy legislative session for environment

AUSTIN – Restoration of a rebate program to help Texans buy electric cars was a rare bright spot amid what was otherwise a bad session of the Texas Legislature for the environment, said Environment Texas. “This was a pretty lousy session for the environment,” said Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger. “The Legislature further weakened local and citizen rights to fight pollution, a win for the big polluters who fund their campaigns, but a clear loss for public health and the environment.”

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