About Air and Water

Monday, August 24, 2009

Filling the gap When the state won’t take on a dirty job

By Editorial - HOUSTON CHRONICLE - Aug. 23, 2009

City of Houston officials have wrestled for years with this dilemma: How do you prevent industrial facilities from violating clean air standards if the state agency entrusted with that responsibility doesn't do the job?
Environmental groups frustrated by that inaction are now taking polluters to court, with encouraging results. In the latest example, the Sierra Club and Environment Texas have filed a federal suit to force Chevron Phillips Chemical to reduce emissions of air toxics at its Cedar Bayou chemical plant in Baytown.
In court filings, the groups claim that since 2003 the plant has illegally released more than a million pounds of toxic, carcinogenic chemicals, including benzene and 1,3-butadiene. Most of the releases occurred during so-called “upsets,” which occur during startups, shutdowns, and other non-routine activities.
The litigation is being brought under a provision of the Clean Air Act empowering private citizens affected by illegal pollution discharges to file federal suits if state and federal regulators do not take action.
This is the second time that the two groups have used the citizen suit provision against a Houston-area company. Last year the target was the Shell Oil Deer Park refinery and petrochemical complex. That resulted in a landmark settlement in which Shell agreed to reduce emissions and pay nearly $6 million for past Clean Air Act violations.
Reacting to the latest suit, a Chevron Phillips spokesman claimed the company is complying with existing laws and has reduced emissions.
Neil Carman, a chemist and the Clean Air Program director for the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, says a single discharge of emissions from the Cedar Bayou facility 10 years ago created the highest levels of ozone in Houston in the last 20 years.
The director of Environment Texas, Luke Metzger, says citizen suits are necessary “because the state of Texas has failed to stop such violations at Cedar Bayou and elsewhere and enforce the law themselves.”
The support evidence filed in the Chevron Phillips suit is based on analysis of the company's own reports submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It's inexcusable that the state agency responsible for enforcing clean air laws apparently can't be bothered to look at what's right under its nose.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Travel to other worlds ... UTA Planetarium

Immersive full-dome 3-D Digital planetarium show narrated by Ewan McGregor (Obi wan Kepobi from Star Wars) - Astronaut takes you exporing the worlds of inner and outer space. The movie is projected all around you. You recline in specially constructed chairs which enables you to comfortably view the immersive full-dome planetarium show. Astronaut! (produced from the National Space Centre in England) goes beyond the stereotypical space movie. Experience a rocket launch from inside the body of the astronaut. Float around the international Space Station moving thorugh the microscopic regions of the human body! Discover the beauty and perils as "Chad", the test astronaut experiences everything thrown at him.




Summer Schedule (June 2-August 26):

Astronaut!


shows at the UTA Planetarium.


Wed. through Saturdays at 11 a.m.
and Thursday at 7:00 p.m.




Cosmic CSI

shows at the UTA Planetarium 3-D Digital Dome.


Wed. through Saturdays at 2 p.m.




Rock Hall of Fame 1 (The Original)


shows at the UTA Planetarium.


Thursday at 8:00 p.m.




Read more (Warning their flat dull website doesn't give much of a glimmer of the multi-dimensional experience you'll have once you enter the dome of the UTA Planetarium!)


Admission: Adults: $5.00


Seniors, Students, Children: $4.00


UTA Faculty, Staff & Alumni (with ID): $3.00


UTA Studens (with ID): $2.00


Groups of 10 or more with reservation: $3.00


Call 817 272-1183 or e-mail planetarium@uta.edu