a flair burning bright over towers at Shell's Deer Park Refinery in Texas
Roy Luck / flicker

Texas Clean Air Project

Goal: Ensure that Texans can breath clean unpolluted air by holding polluters accountable.
Industrial facilities in Texas violated clean air laws every single day in 2019, illegally releasing over 174 million pounds of pollution, including chemicals linked to asthma and cancer. Backed by our members, Environment Texas is standing up to the polluters and demanding they follow the law and stop polluting our air.
  • <h4>POLLUTERS MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE</h4><h5>but over the last 8 years, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has financially penalized companies for only 3% of all illegal air pollution events.</h5><em>Heather Carroll Photography</em>
  • <h4>UNAUTHORIZED AIR POLLUTION</h4><h5>in Texas has increased 155% since 2015 spewing chemicals linked to asthma, cancer, and reproductive issues.</h5><em>Heather Carroll</em>
  • <h4>EVERY SINGLE DAY</h4><h5>in 2019, industrial facilities, often in the heart of Texas communities, illegally polluted the air in our state.</h5><em>Heather Carroll Photography</em>
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. Since 2011, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has only financially penalized three percent of illegal air pollution events.

According to a recent study published in the journal Environmental Research, air pollution from fossil fuels was responsible for more than 17,000 premature deaths in Texas in 2018. And our research has found that Houston-area petrochemical facilities violated clean air laws almost every single day in 2019, illegally releasing 23 million pounds of air 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 3,000 times over five years—compounding Texas’ pollution problems and endangering the health of nearby residents.

Air pollution is toxic for our communities

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.

Clean Air Associate Catherine speaking at a press conference with the Mom's Clean Air Force
credit: Alese Pickering
A winning legal strategy

In recent years, we settled cases with Shell Deer Park and Chevron Phillips, getting both companies to reduce upset emissions and pay almost $8 million in penalties. We also got a federal judge to order Exxon to pay a $14 million penalty for 3,000 violations at the company’s Baytown refinery and chemical plant complex, the largest Clean Air Act citizen suit penalty in U.S. history.

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.

Tell the EPA: Close the affirmative defense polluter loophole

Join our campaign and urge the EPA to crack down on Texas' worst polluters. Industrial facilities release millions of pounds of illegal air pollution each year in Texas, yet 97 percent evade penalties by using the "affirmative defense" loophole. Sign our petition to hold polluters accountable for fouling our air by closing this loophole.

Our Recent Work


Illegal Air Pollution in Texas 2020

Trouble in the Air

Illegal Air Pollution in Texas in 2018


APOs Comment Letter

TCEQ Penalty Policy Comment Letter

TCEQ Penalty Policy

News articles

Statesman: Biden says he ‘would transition from the oil industry’

Texas Observer: One Texas-Sized Loophole is Letting Lone Star Polluters Off the Hook

Houston Public Media: Report: Unauthorized Air Pollution In Texas Has More Than Doubled Since 2015

Grist: Texas relaxed environmental enforcement during the pandemic, state data show

Beaumont Enterprise: ENTERPRISE EDITORIAL: Pollution report shows air quality must improve

Associated Press: Oil and gas industry assesses damage at refineries, plants

Texas Tribune: Citing coronavirus pandemic, Trump administration stops enforcing environmental laws

Reform Austin: Pre-Hurricane Chemical Plant Releases a Wake-Up Call for Reforms

Texas Standard: Some Texas Petrochemical Facilities Get A Pass On Chemical Leak Monitoring During The Pandemic

NPR: Refinery Plant Explosion in Texas Raises Questions About Chemical Safety Rules

Texas Observer: Report: As TCEQ Sits Idle, Polluters Double Illegal Air Pollution in 2018

KUT: Port Neches Plant Rocked By Multiple Explosions Was Declared High Priority Violator By EPA


Austin: Vote Yes on Prop A for Transit

It’s time to shut down the WA Parish coal plant

A Step Forward for Walkability in Houston

Refineries, chemical plants release over 4 millions pounds of pollution as a result of Hurricane Laura

25 Texas facilities skip reporting water pollution under EPA’s pandemic polluter loophole

EPA: Strengthen standards for cancer-causing chemical

TCEQ: pollution controls protect our health, environment during pandemic