Full Show

Regulating Refineries and How to Be A Texan: Wednesday’s Show (March 9, 2016)

A worker was injured Saturday morning when an explosion at the Pasadena Refining Systems Inc. plant started a fire, sending smoke plumes into the Pasadena air. A portion of the Houston Ship Channel was closed briefly while the Coast Guard investigated for any potential chemical releases. According to the EPA, the plant owned by Petrobras, […]

A worker was injured Saturday morning when an explosion at the Pasadena Refining Systems Inc. plant started a fire, sending smoke plumes into the Pasadena air. A portion of the Houston Ship Channel was closed briefly while the Coast Guard investigated for any potential chemical releases. According to the EPA, the plant owned by Petrobras, the national oil company of Brazil, has a history of violations of the Clean Air Act, resulting in more than $1.1 million in fines.

But do fines and write-ups make any real difference? How do regulators like the EPA and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality determine whether — and how much — to fine a company operating a plant in violation of regulations? And what would it take for regulators to actually shut a refinery down?

On this edition of Houston Matters, we talk with Adrian Shelley from the environmental group Air Alliance Houston, which has raised alarm bells about this plant, in particular, in the recent past. Then we talk with News 88.7’s energy and environment reporter Dave Fehling about how Saturday’s explosion compares to other incidents of recent years at chemical plants in and near Greater Houston.

(Above: The Pasadena Refining Systems, Inc. plant involved in this weekend’s incident. Photo: Dave Fehling, Houston Public Media)

The Next Big Storm

Also this hour: Severe weather we may experience this week is one thing. But what about the next really, really big storm? Is Greater Houston prepared? Not according to a report from the Texas Tribune and ProPublica. We talk with Tribune environmental reporter Kiah Collier about the report, entitled Hell and High Water.

A Class on Presidential Debates

Then: On Tuesday, NPR’s Kelly McEvers spoke with a government teacher in Aurora, Illinois about the challenges of talking with students about some of the vulgarities on display in this year’s presidential race. A University of Houston instructor is having similar conversations with a small group of college students, in a class called Presidential Campaigns and Debates. We talk with Sarah Spring, Director of UH’s Speech and Debate program, about teaching political communication, including how campaigns communicate differently during primary and general election seasons, and how the form of debates can impact the content of what we see and hear.

How to Be a Texan

Plus: Native Houstonian and Texas Monthly online editor Andrea Valdez has written the forthcoming book How To Be a Texan: The Manual. It’s a not-so-serious guide to the things we do and say in the Lone Star state. Maggie Martin talks with Valdez about the guide.

Houston Matters offers a free daily, downloadable podcast here, on iTunes, Stitcher and various other podcasting apps.

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