Industrial facilities in Texas continue to violate their Clean Air Act permits by releasing large amounts of air contaminants during “emissions events” or “upsets” — the regulatory terms used to describe unauthorized emissions from equipment breakdowns, process malfunctions, operator errors or maintenance work. Emissions events are supposed to be accidental, unanticipated releases of air pollution. However, the data show that these events occur so frequently as to be almost routine at some facilities, and often involve large releases of health threatening pollution. A recent study found that emissions events in Texas lead to the premature deaths of at least 16 people and $148 million in health-related costs per year. According to reports filed by companies through the State of Texas Electronic Emissions Reporting System (STEERS) in 2017, 275 companies reported 4,067 breakdowns, maintenance incidents, and other emissions events that resulted in the release of more than 63 million pounds of illegal air pollution.
At a press conference last month to discuss a new report on the impacts of Hurricane Harvey, a reporter asked you whether man-made climate change has played a role in Texas' weather disasters. You replied that it would be impossible for you to say, as you are not a scientist. We, the undersigned, are climate scientists and experts, and can report to you that climate change is happening, it is primarily caused by humans, and it is having a devastating impact on Texas, including increasing deadly flooding resulting from Hurricane Harvey.
Governors have extensive power to reduce carbon pollution and put their states on a path to clean energy – often with just a stroke of the pen. Over the last decade, governors have adopted sweeping emission reduction goals, accelerated the transition to clean energy, forged regional agreements to tackle climate change, and appointed leaders of state agencies empowered to implement policies to reduce pollution in buildings, at electric utilities, in transportation and throughout the economy.
Recycling rates in Texas reveal one of the more wasteful states in the nation. At 23 percent, the statewide rate falls almost twelve points below the national average 34.7 percent. Based on the most recent available data, only two of Texas’s major cities, Austin and Plano, exceed the national average.
Environment Texas Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done.