A report from the Houston Chronicle has revealed that Texas refineries and chemical plants released millions of pounds of air pollution in the days leading to Hurricane Laura’s landfall. The pollution release happened as the facilities hastily closed before the massive storm reached their area. Shutting down a refinery or chemical plant releases pollutants because doing so requires facilities to burn off excess product.
How Much Pollution Released Before Hurricane Laura?
Environment Texas, a nonprofit, tallied state notices to track how much pollution was released as Hurricane Laura approached Texas. It found that nearly 4 million pounds of pollutants were released near Beaumont and Port Arthur alone.
The Houston Chronicle points out that this amount of pollution is as if 140,000 additional cars were on the road for a day.
Some of the largest polluters from Hurricane Laura plant shutdowns include:
- Motiva Chemicals
- Saudi Aramco
Natgasoline’s pollutant release eclipsed that of other facilities in Texas. The chemical plant reported it would burn off over 3.5 million pounds of pollutants to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The next closest polluter was the Port Arthur Refinery owned by Saudi Aramco. It reported a release of just over 500,000 of pollution.
Texas Refineries Already Have a Bad Reputation for Environmental Responsibility
Last February, the Texas Tribune reported that, out of 10 refineries that were found to release unsafe levels of pollutants, 6 of them are in Texas. Specifically, these facilities were found to release benzene, a dangerous chemical that’s closely tied to cancer. Environmental advocates cited a lack of air quality testing by companies and regulatory bodies as a reason for this excessive pollution.
“This report shows that almost half of the refineries with the most cancer-causing benzene emissions in the U.S. are right here in Houston’s backyard,” said Bakeyah Nelson, Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston.
With safety advocates already worried about Texas’ checkered past with pollution, this recent release has added to the state’s long list of environmental problems from plants and refineries.