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

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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News Release | Environment Texas

Federal court: Exxon violated Clean Air Act over 16,000 times, must pay $19.95 million penalty

HOUSTON – After initially ruling in favor of ExxonMobil Corporation and then getting overturned on appeal, a federal district court has found that Exxon committed 16,386 days of violation of the federal Clean Air Act at its Baytown, Texas, refinery and chemical plant.  As a result, the court has ordered Exxon to pay $19.95 million, which is believed to be the largest civil penalty ever imposed in an environmental “citizen suit,” a citizen-initiated enforcement mechanism Congress included in the Clean Air Act and other federal environmental laws.  

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Headline

Online tool to track air pollution in Texas debuts

Air pollution happens every day in Houston. Sometimes, that pollution is well within permit limits, considered safe by state environmental regulators, and sometimes, it's not. So how do Houston residents who care about air quality tell the difference? Several environmental groups have recently debuted a handy new tool that notifies people when a Texas industry anticipates releasing air pollution that exceeds permitted limits.

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Blog Post

2016 air pollution data for Texas | Luke Metzger

Today we released Our Health at Risk: Why Are Millions of Americans Still Breathing Unhealthy Air?, which examines air pollution data for 2015. We also obtained preliminary data from the EPA for 2016 (the data will officially be considered final on May 1, but we expect few if any changes). So how did Texas metro areas stack up? In general, air pollution improved in Texas in 2016, with a few exceptions. There were more smoggy days in Houston and more sooty days in El Paso, Brownsville and McAllen (increases italicized below).

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News Release | Environment Texas

Houston’s health at risk with 107 dirty air days in 2016

HOUSTON – Preliminary data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows that Houston experienced an uptick in unhealthy smog days in 2016, increasing the risk of asthma attacks and other health problems. The finding comes as President Trump and a Texas lawmaker have begun separate efforts to weaken air quality protections.

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