Back to OurEnergyLibrary search

Breakdowns in Enforcement

Breakdowns in Enforcement

Full Title: Breakdowns in Enforcement
Author(s): Gabriel Clark-Leach & Luke Metzger
Publisher(s): Environmental Integrity Project
Publication Date: July 1, 2017
Full Text: Download Resource
Description (excerpt):

For years, petroleum refineries, chemical factories, power plants and other industries in
Texas have argued that they should not be held responsible for much of the air pollution
they release because they claim a loophole from permitted limits for industrial malfunctions
or maintenance. But the law and increasingly the courts do not support such a claim. An
example of this was the April 26, 2017, decision by a federal judge in Houston to penalize
ExxonMobil $20 million for emitting 10 million pounds of pollutants from its Baytown
refining and chemical complex during malfunctions and maintenance over eight years.

It is significant, however, that this penalty was not initiated by the state of Texas, but instead by
a lawsuit brought by local residents represented by Environment Texas and the Sierra Club.
The State of Texas claims primary responsibility for enforcing antipollution laws, but itself
rarely takes action against companies for allowing dangerous amounts of soot, sulfur
dioxide, benzene and other pollutants to escape from plants during what industry calls
“upset” events. A review of five years of state records by the Environmental Integrity
Project and Environment Texas shows that the state imposed penalties on less than 3
percent of the illegal pollution releases (588 out of 24,839) reported by companies during
maintenance or malfunctions from 2011 through 2016, even though the incidents released
more than 500 million pounds of air pollution.

All statements and/or propositions in discussion prompts are meant exclusively to stimulate discussion and do not represent the views of, its Partners, Topic Directors or Experts, nor of any individual or organization. Comments by and opinions of Expert participants are their own.

Sign up for our Press Release Distribution List

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email (required)

    Please sign me up to receive press releases from