It’s always Christmastime for polluters

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.”

Go here for their full report, their comment letter, and their letters requesting action by the EPA and Region 6 Enforcement Section.

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2 Responses to It’s always Christmastime for polluters

  1. Danil says:

    Good lead, sire.

  2. Dan Lauck at KHOU ran a very interesting story in response to our report.

    “The director of the state’s environmental quality, Glenn Shankle, has told us that he doesn’t want to burden industry with fines.”

    Here is the link. FYI, I haven’t been able to get video from KHOU to work in a while. I think they are posting it but it isn’t working, and it has been that way for a while.

    It is worth noting that in the Dow Chemical case mentioned, the initial recommended fine was $866,525 but there were some mistakes in its calculation. It should have been calculated as $690,000 (in comparison to the final fine of $12,535).

    John D. Wilson

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