Houston Matters

Do Refinery Regulations Go Far Enough?

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?

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)

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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