The Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention, also known as GHASP, has something to tell you. From their press release:
When chemical plants and refineries violate air pollution regulations, they can count on light fines from Texas environmental officials, according to a new study by the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention. In a review of 26 enforcement cases from the Houston region, GHASP found that the state assessed just 14% of the potential fines that it could have levied against major polluters.
"Over the past five years, the state has routinely given big breaks to big polluters," said John D. Wilson, executive director of the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention. "In several cases, the fines were hundreds of thousands of dollars less than they could have been - if the state had strictly followed its own policies."
The study demonstrated that three systematic problems at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality contribute to the failure to collect adequate fines: lax prosecution of weak leak detection programs, breaches of the state's penalty calculation policy, and unjustifiable dismissals of enforcement cases. Though the state did assess most or all of the potential fine in some cases, that occurred only if the potential penalty was small. If the potential fine was more than $40,000, the TCEQ never collected even half of the potential fine.
"We are asking Texas to adhere to its own policies," explained Wilson, "and we want the US Environmental Protection Agency to step in and hold the state accountable for being so lenient with those companies that violate air pollution regulations."