3.5 million pounds of extra pollution released during the winter storm in Texas, reports say

Environmental Groups call for stricter enforcement

Millions of pounds of pollution was released during the winter storm in Texas, KPRC 2 Investigates learns.
Millions of pounds of pollution was released during the winter storm in Texas, KPRC 2 Investigates learns.

TEXAS – Fallout from the winter storm in Texas continues to roll in as plants and refineries that are required to self-report extra emissions, report millions of pounds of pollution during a period of forced shutdowns.

“Texas is not ready for increasingly extreme weather, and the state’s failure to prepare is hurting communities, especially those near high-risk chemical facilities,” said Elena Craft, senior director for climate and health at Environmental Defense Fund.

In Harris County alone, plants, refineries and large industrial operations reported approximately 700,000 lbs. of extra emissions of various sorts, that are most commonly branded “pollution”.

The numbers can shift slightly over time as entities that do the reporter are allowed to adjust the figures as new data rolls in.

In Baytown, The Exxon Mobil Olefins plant emitted approximately 3.5 times more pollution during an 11-day period bracketing the winter storm, than during the Hurricane Harvey flooding event.

“As a result of the freezing weather conditions, coupled with the curtailment of natural gas supplies throughout the State of Texas, we safety ceased manufacturing and shut down or idled virtually all of our units across the Baytown area. Any units that remained in operation were dedicated to generating electricity to supply the grid and surrounding community or to generating the power necessary to keep our people, the community and units safe. We are committed to operating in an environmentally responsible manner that protects the safety and health of our personnel, customers and the public,” said Jeremy Eikenberry, Media Relations Advisor for Exxon Mobil Corporation.

The increased flaring, which causes the pollution, is a typical byproduct of shutdown and startup events at refineries and plants. These activities commonly lead to more air emissions.

As KPRC 2 Investigates has reported in the past, financial penalties are often minor or non-existent.

“In the year 2019, we found TCEQ took a financial action or levied a penalty against just three percent of unauthorized or illegal air pollution events,” said Catherine Fraser with Environment Texas.