Texas industrial facilities released more than 63 million pounds of air pollution without authorization in 2017.

That's a 27 percent increase from the previous year, according to “Major Malfunction: Air Pollution from Industrial Malfunctions and Maintenance in Texas in 2017,” a report released by our partner group Environment Texas Research & Policy Center on Jan. 30. The report found that while the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) could issue fines as high as $2.3 billion for 2017 violations, the agency fined violators only $1.2 million.

“The data show that polluters routinely violate the law, but TCEQ too often lets them off the hook,” said Environment Texas Executive Director Luke Metzger. “We need to crack down on illegal pollution and make our air safe to breathe.”

Environment Texas is calling on the Legislature to close a loophole known as “affirmative defense” that polluters have used to escape penalties.

Photo: Air pollution over Houston from the view of the Houston Ship Channel. Credit: U.S. Coast Guard, Public Domain.