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Bill Would Create Statewide Toxic Emergency Alert System

A proposed bill would set up an emergency alert system for residence near chemical plants.

A chemical plant east of Houston.

A state lawmaker is pushing a bill that would set up an emergency alert system for people living near chemical plants. It’s partly a response to a mysterious smell that spread over Houston recently.

Officials first said the unusually-strong rotten-egg odor came from a chemical plant, but then said they weren’t sure about that. Now, the Harris County Pollution Control Department says it most likely came from a rail car or truck passing through the area.

The smell wasn’t a safety threat, but it got people thinking – what if it was?

House Bill 1927 from Democrat Eddie Rodriguez of Austin would setup a statewide toxic emergency alert system. Not all local governments have such a system in place, and that’s why Adrian Shelley with Air Alliance Houston – a group backing the bill – says this is needed.

“There are isolated incidents of people being exposed to hazardous chemicals, because they did not receive warnings, or they didn’t understand the warnings that were coming out, he says.

The bill would let people near a toxic incident know within a half hour if they’re safe, or how to stay safe. It would also let people know what chemicals they might be exposed to.

Shelley says it would be “judiciously used” for emergencies. Still, it’s not likely the bill will be a priority for Texas Republicans currently focused on sanctuary cities, reforming the state’s child welfare system, and Governor Abbott’s call for a “convention of states.”

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Travis Bubenik

Travis Bubenik

Energy & Environment Reporter

Travis Bubenik reports on the tangled intersections of energy and the environment in Houston and across Texas. A Houston native and proud Longhorn, he returned to the Bayou City after serving as the Morning Edition Host & Reporter for Marfa Public Radio in Far West Texas. Bubenik was previously the...

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