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Environmental Groups Raise Concerns about Gulf Coast Petrochemical Boom

They say plants need to do more to gear up for more-intense storms

A view of petrochemical and refining facilities near Houston, TX.

In a new report tallying up the Gulf Coast petrochemical industry boom of recent years, environmental groups say they’re worried industrial facilities are being built too close to flood-prone areas.

Fracking has driven huge investments in plants that use oil and gas to make things like plastic and fertilizer. A report from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) says regulators in Texas and Louisiana have approved 31 new plants – or plant expansions – along the coast over just the past two years. The report says the two states have approved more than 70 such projects since 2012.

“A lot of these are being built in flood zones, where inevitably there’s going to be storm surges,” says Tom Pelton, an EIP spokesperson.

Environmental groups say companies need to do more to bolster these plants against the more-intense storms climate change is expected to cause.

There are signs that the industry agrees: after Hurricane Harvey, some plants in the Houston area looked at whether their “worst case scenarios” for storm planning will be good enough down the road.

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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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