Energy & Environment

Texas Regulators Pressured To Be Tougher On Pollution Rules

The head of a house committee calls some pollution fines “inconsequential” to companies.

Some 461,000 gallons of gasoline spilled at a Galena Park, Texas facility during Hurricane Harvey, leading nearby residents to complain about overwhelming odors.

Texas lawmakers are pressing regulators to be tougher on enforcing pollution rules, a push in response to the pollution spikes Hurricane Harvey caused.

The state says Harvey caused more than 200 toxic spills. There was also excess air pollution from Houston-area industry after the storm, as refineries and plants came back online.

At a hearing on the storm response, Democratic El Paso Representative Joe Pickett said he worries that polluters see fines as “just the cost of doing business.” 

“Some of the fines that you have levied are inconsequential,” he told Bryan Shaw, head of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

In response, Shaw suggested the bad publicity surrounding pollution fines is a deterrent that’s part of the equation.

“Often times the mere having the enforcement action taken is as consequential as the fine,” he said, “but that’s something we continue to work with.”

A TCEQ spokesperson said the agency has penalized companies that broke rules during Harvey, but that there isn’t a list of those enforcement actions.

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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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