Energy & Environment

What’s In The Air Near Natural Gas Plants? Some Plants Now Will Reporting Releases

Environmentalists are claiming a victory in their efforts to bring greater scrutiny to pollution that’s coming from the oil and gas industry.

Natural gas facility in LaSalle County
Natural gas facility in LaSalle County

 

Scattered around Harris and four nearby counties are 12 plants that process natural gas. They purify raw gas coming from well sites then pipe it to refineries and storage facilities around Houston. 

Across Texas, there are a total of 175 of the gas processing plants, which is one third the total nationwide. That’s a lot of plants, and according to Adam Kron with the Environmental Integrity Project, they’re emitting a lot of pollution. 

 “(Pollution) like benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, hexanes,” Kron told News 88.7.

Those are chemicals linked to breathing problems, even cancer. But the plants — and actually the entire oil and gas drilling and production industry — never had to report any of its toxic releases to a federal public website, unlike thousands of other facilities that use chemicals.

Environmentalists asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency to change that and this week.  It did, proposing that all those gas processing plants start reporting their releases.

“It’s a big win to have hundreds of facilities reporting to the Toxics Release Inventory for the first time. This will be information the public has not been able to see, “ said Kron.

The environmentalists had wanted the EPA to require all oil and gas production facilities to report to the Toxics Release Inventory, including well sites.

“The fact EPA didn’t include the whole oil and gas extraction industry — that’s less than what we asked. So that’s a disappointment, because we think there’s a lot of information out there the public should have,” said Kron.

It’s not a done deal. The proposal will go through an approval process in which the oil and gas industry is expected to oppose it.

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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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