Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas


A flare erupts from a refinery stack in Corpus Christi

Where Are Toxic Emissions Coming From?


Poisoned Places is a special investigative report by NPR, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) and StateImpact examining how air pollution is affecting communities across the nation. It has been 31 years since Congress passed the Clean Air Act, which directs the Environmental Protection Agency to enforcer regulations and protect the general public from toxic emissions. But as the investigative series discovered, companies are still producing toxic emissions, and regulators are having a difficult time stopping them. The team found:

  • State and federal regulators take months and sometimes years to enforce anti-pollution rules. About 400 facilities are on an internal EPA watch list that includes serious or chronic Clean Air Act violators that have not been subject to timely enforcement. The list was obtained by the Center and NPR and is being made public for the first time.
  • More than 1,600 facilities around the country are classified by the EPA as “high priority violators” of the Clear Air Act sites in need of urgent action by enforcers. Nearly 300 have had this designation for at least a decade.
  • Regulators largely rely on an honor system easily manipulated by polluters, which report their own emissions. Even judging by the self-reported numbers, the scale of pollution is enormous: At least 600 million pounds of toxic chemicals – including arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde and lead – were released into the air in 2009, according to EPA data.

Latest Posts

Why One Lawmaker Wants Texas Lakes to Post Mercury Warnings

A fisherman walks from his fishing spot at the Tonkawa Falls area 10 January 2004 in Crawford, Texas. A new bill would require lakes with mercury contamination to post warning signs to fishermen.

Many of Texas’ lakes and bays have become contaminated with mercury, which has, in turn, contaminated the consumable fish living in them, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Now one lawmaker has filed a bill, HB 993, that would help notify people of mercury problems in state waters. “Right now there aren’t any [...]

Exxon Refinery in Baytown Releases Massive Amount of Chemicals

The ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown in 2005.

Early yesterday morning, something went wrong at the ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown, east of Houston. In an emissions event report to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), ExxonMobil reports that there was shutdown of a unit at the refinery after a heat exchanger tube leaked, and the event is still ongoing. Judging by the [...]

Texas Makes Top Ten List of Polluters

Texas is among the top ten states in the country for pollution from power plants.

Texas has earned the unfortunate distinction of being among the worst polluting states in the country when it comes to electricity generation. That’s according to a new report out from the environmental group National Resources Defense Council. Texas was ranked tenth among states that released the most toxic emissions from power plants in 2010, and first [...]

Texas Tops List of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Clusters of Greenhouse Gas Emitters in Texas

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a new interactive map today that allows you to explore greenhouse gas emissions throughout the country for 2010. Here’s a snapshot of Texas that links to the map: Clusters of Greenhouse Gas Emitters in Texas (Map by EPA)  The largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the state for that [...]

New Rules Approved for Pollution from Coal Plants

The Fayette Power Project coal plant in La Grange, Texas. The plant will need to make upgrades to comply with new EPA rules.

In a move the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is calling “historic,” new rules were approved today that mandate reduced emissions of mercury and other pollutants from U.S. coal power plants. In a statement released today, the agency says that these are the first national standards that “will slash emissions of these dangerous pollutants by relying [...]

Update on Pasadena Refinery Fire in Houston

Schools Out: Kids at the End of The Day at Kruse Elementary in Pasadena, Texas

A spokesperson for Pasadena Refining System has issued an updated statement today on the fire at their Houston-area refinery Saturday that injured one: “Pasadena Refining (PRSI) reports that the fire which broke out at approximately 7:00 p.m. Saturday, December 10, 2011 at the coker unit was extinguished a few hours later. All personell [sic] were [...]

Fire and Explosions at Houston Refinery

The Pasadena Refining System Inc. refinery in Pasadena, Texas

Blasts followed by a fire were reported at the Pasadena Refining System refinery in a suburb of Houston Saturday evening. The Associated Press says two were injured in the explosion, one of them with burns on his arm. The fire ignited in the refinery’s coker unit after “sludge at the bottom of a tank ignited, unleashing [...]

Live-Blogging the TCEQ Commissioners’ Meeting

Today the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is holding their monthly commissioners’ meeting, where they vote on enforcement and regulations. Some important items are on the agenda today, from new regulations to water restrictions. We’ll be live-blogging the meeting below:

Now Read This: The Top 5 Stories of Last Week

A warning sign along the shore of the dried O.C. Fisher Lake in San Angelo, Texas in the summer of 2011.

The top five new stories of last week from StateImpact Texas, in case you missed them: The Texas Drought, as Seen from Space (Things Don’t Look Good). During a drought, it feels like all you can do is wait and wait for rain. Well, we may have to wait a little longer. A new NASA map shows that groundwater and soil [...]

Explosion and Fire Reported at San Antonio Refinery

View Larger Map An explosion occurred at a refinery in San Antonio earlier today, according to the city’s fire department and news reports. Firefighters battled a fire that began after an explosion this afternoon at the AGE Refinery. Local news station WOAI reports that “the San Antonio Fire Department has confirmed a type of diesel jet fuel [...]

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