Texas, Refineries Urged To Plan Storm Shutdowns To Cut Pollution

Credit: Adrees Latif/Reuters.
An aerial view of the Shell Deer Park Manufacturing Complex is seen in Deer Park, Texas on 31 August 2017.

Texas environment regulators should coordinate shutdowns of oil refineries and other petrochemical plants during major storms to avoid big releases of air pollution like during last year’s Hurricane Harvey, a report said on 16 August.

A year ago, Harvey dumped more than 60 in. of rain on southeastern Texas, halting refineries that produce a quarter of US fuel and damaging infrastructure.

Texas industry, including refineries and petrochemical plants, released an extra 8.3 million lbm of air pollutants, including cancer-causing benzene, during Harvey, said the report by the Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

Most of that pollution was released in the Houston area, where refineries did not shut until the rains arrived, 3 days after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a warning for coastal counties. Much of that pollution resulted from equipment malfunctions and electrical outages, emissions that could have been avoided if the state coordinated early shutdowns, the report said. In Corpus Christi, refineries that shut before rains came released less pollution on average, the report said.

Houston suffered three high-ozone days, which can be dangerous for people with lung and heart conditions, following Harvey, including the worst day for smog in Texas in 2017.

“The state should take a more hands-on approach for future storms because, with climate change, we are going to have more storms like this,” said Tom Pelton, a spokesman at the EIP, headed by former Environmental Protection Agency director of civil enforcement Eric Schaeffer.

Read the full story here.

Read the report here (PDF).



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