Energy & Environment

EPA’s New Smog Rules Target Industries in Houston

This is a big week for action to reduce smog in Houston.

They’ve been part of the Houston landscape for decades: giant flares that burn off explosive gases from refineries and petrochemical plants. But the pollution they emit, as well as exhaust from many thousands of vehicles, has been reduced in Houston.

The amount of ozone that’s created by pollution when hit with sunlight used to exceed federal standards several dozen days a year in the 1990s. But in recent years, ozone has exceeded standards by only 11 days a year on average.

Yet, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce new, stricter ozone standards this week, standards Houston could have a tough time meeting. The business group, the Greater Houston Partnership, questions whether reducing smog further is worth what it could cost industries and transportation.

Rebecca Rentz is an attorney who works with the group and says the new rules will be challenged.

“I have yet to see an ozone standard that has not been challenged by all sides. It’ll be challenged by environmental groups, it’ll be challenged by industrial groups,” said Rentz.

photo of Rebecca Rentz
Rebecca Rentz is a Houston envionrmental attorney

Also coming out this week from the EPA are additional rules to make oil refineries in particular make further reductions in their air pollution and to start monitoring at their fence lines for benzene, a potential cancer-causer. Texas environmental groups praised the new rules, but the refining industry said they’ll cost a billion dollars nationwide.

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Dave Fehling

Director of News and Public Affairs

As Director of News and Public Affairs, Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston's NPR station. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well...

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