Houston Matters

Fires that release chemicals are not among the factors under consideration for renewing chemical plant permits

Air Alliance Houston’s Jennifer Hadayia walks us through the permitting process for chemical plants.


A drone photo of the International Terminals Company fire in Deer Park, on March 18, 2019.


To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="https://embed.hpm.io/451673/451668" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>

When a fire broke out at a Shell plant in Deer Park earlier this month, it prompted a sense of déjà vu – and irony – for some area residents.

The night before, dozens of them spoke out in opposition to the renewal of a federal operating permit for an Intercontinental Terminals Company facility. The ITC Deer Park plant caught fire and burned for four days back in 2019, leaving a giant plume of smoke that lingered over the Houston area. That fire released benzene into the air, and benzene has been linked to a higher risk of developing cancer.

Deer Park residents argued ITC should not be granted a renewed permit and cited the 2019 fire as compelling evidence why.

But while the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will review the comments made at this month's meeting, TCEQ staff attorney Amy Browning said at that hearing the fire won't be used to evaluate the permit. Why?

In the audio above, we ask Jennifer Hadayia, the executive director of the environmental advocacy organization Air Alliance Houston.

She was quoted in a recent Texas Tribune article as calling this month's public meeting "one of the most discouraging permit hearings ever, and least communicative." She also said TCEQ was – quote – "deliberately attempting to hold information back." She explains why the meeting was so discouraging, and why she perceived TCEQ as holding back info. We also discuss the permitting process.


Today in Houston Newsletter Signup
We're in the process of transitioning services for our Today in Houston newsletter. If you'd like to sign up now, fill out the form below and we will add you as soon as we finish the transition. **Please note** If you are already signed up for the newsletter, you do not need to sign up again. Your subscription will be migrated over.
Joshua Zinn

Joshua Zinn

Producer, Houston Matters

Joshua is a producer for Houston Matters on News 88.7 as well as the host of Encore Houston on Houston Public Media Classical. He joined Houston Public Media as a radio intern in 2014 and became a full-time announcer the following year. Now he prepares segments and occasionally records interviews...

More Information

Craig Cohen

Craig Cohen

Executive Producer & Host, Houston Matters

Craig Cohen is the executive producer and host of Houston Matters, which airs weekday mornings at 9:00 on Houston Public Media, News 88.7 FM. Craig is a 20+ year veteran of broadcast journalism. He's spent the bulk of his career in public media, in roles ranging from programmer and manager,...

More Information