Today I testified before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regarding a proposed (weak) fine against the TPC Port Neches facility (the one which blew up over Thanksgiving). Here is what I said.
My name is Catherine Fraser and I’m the Clean Air Associate with Environment Texas, a non-profit advocate for clean air, clean water, and open spaces.
I’m here to speak against the proposed penalty for the TPC Port Neches Plant. Today, Environment Texas is releasing our annual report on Illegal Air Pollution in Texas. Our research found that the TPC Port Neches Plant is the second worst polluter of butadiene in the entire state of Texas, illegally emitting over 14 thousands pounds of butadiene last year alone. We know butadiene can cause cancer, and that there is no safe level of exposure to it.
The facility has a track record of violating the Clean Air Act, with five other illegal emissions events just in 2019, in addition to the 2018 events we are discussing today. Your staff proposed a fine of roughly $44,000 for the TPC Port Neches Plant, a slap on the wrist for a plant that consistently violates our clean air laws, threatening the health and safety of nearby communities. Given your ability to fine companies $25,000 a day per pollutant, a six figure enforcement action is both possible and warranted.
Environment Texas’ report also more broadly examines illegal air pollution events and enforcement actions at industrial facilities in Texas. Despite 4,590 illegal emissions events in Texas in 2018, only 1% of events were penalized by the TCEQ, making it easy for polluters to pollute our air and endanger our citizens.
Texans are sick and tired of oil refineries and petrochemical plants catching fire, exploding, and pumping out harmful pollution, and the data show the problem is getting worse, not better. We need our state leaders to crack down on illegal pollution, and stop putting the interests of polluters over the rest of us. That’s why today I’m calling on you to reject the proposed enforcement action and direct staff to negotiate tougher penalties, or take TPC to court.