Energy & Environment

New Report Shows Air Pollution From Plastics Plants In Greater Houston Is Getting Worse

Environmentalists want to see more enforcement of clean air laws.

The fire that broke out at the KMCO Chemical plant in Crosby, Texas in April 2019, was one of several recent chemical plant fires in the Houston area.

Nearly two-thirds of the plastics-producing plants in the Houston area have violated air pollution limits over the past five years, according to an analysis of public records from the Austin- and Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project.

The report looked at plants that manufacture plastics or the ingredients of plastics, and found that pollution is expected to get worse, as many plants are expanding.

“We found 45 expansions and new plants being proposed, and we don’t know how much air pollution will come from these new projects,” EIP communications director Tom Pelton said. “But we do have permit applications for a third of them, and if you just look at the third for which we have information – we have information on 16 of these expansion projects – they would be permitted to emit up to an additional 14,000 tons of air pollution annually.”

In 2017, plastics plants in the region emitted 55,704 tons of pollutants, according to the report.

It also found that 19 of the existing 90 existing plastics-related plants have been cited for not meeting emergency plan requirements.

The Environmental Integrity Project is calling on the state to step up oversight of the industry.

“The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality needs to keep a close eye on them,” Pelton said. “Because they’re not following the Clean Air Act and they’re often not following safety planning laws, which can be dangerous for the surrounding community.”

A spokesperson for the TCEQ declined to comment, saying the agency has not had a chance to read the report and evaluate its methodologies.

The American Chemistry Council issued the following written statement in response:

“ACC members have reduced hazardous releases to the air, land and water by 84 percent from 1989 to 2016 and reduced the number of safety incidents by 60 percent since 1995. ACC members are committed to going beyond regulatory requirements to manage, monitor and report progress through Responsible Care®, our health, safety, environment and security performance program. It includes systems to continuously improve performance, third-party certification of practices and systems, and transparent reporting of results.”

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Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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