orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Local News

April 24, 2013

Two Southeast Texas plants on list of repeated breakdowns, pollution

PORT ARTHUR —

A number of environmental groups are banding together in their bid for an investigation of federal and Texas regulators’ response to repeated breakdowns at the facilities.

The Environmental Integrity Project and nine community and public interest organizations, including Community In Power and Development Association in Port Arthur, sent a letter to the USEPA Inspector General regarding the claims.

They purport that Valero Refinery in Port Arthur and the ExxonMobil Refinery in Beaumont are among the five Texas gas and petrochemical facilities that have released the most pollution over the past four years.

A spokesperson with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said the agency does not comment on others’ studies or assertions. According to information on TCEQ’s website, from 2000 to 2011, ozone levels in Texas decreased by 23 percent.

The information may be found at http://www.tceq.texas.gov/airquality/airsuccess/air-success-criteria

The environmental groups say the USEPA has made clear that these so-called “emission events” are not exempt from the Clean Air Act, which means that federal and state agencies can order these plants to install or improve emission controls to fix the problem, according to a press release from Hastingsgroup.com. Violators are also liable for penalties, unless they can prove the upsets are infrequent, completely unavoidable, and could not have been prevented through better design or operation of pollution control equipment.

“Each year the refineries and chemical plants dump tons of unregulated emission into the air that my community breathes. Too many people are being subjected to toxic fumes and are becoming ill; one out of every five households in my hometown has someone who suffers from respiratory problem or other illnesses related to chemical exposure. We need to stop these toxic releases now,” Hilton Kelley of Port Arthur, who is director of CIDA, said.

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