Watchdog Says Accidental Releases Add Pollution in Texas

Natural-gas compressors, pipelines and plants released more than 70,000 tons of pollutants in Texas over the past three years due to accidents or other “abnormal” events, a watchdog group said today.

These “emission events,” which also occurred at refineries and chemical plants, accounted for about 15 percent of the sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds released by those facilities in Texas, the Environmental Integrity Project said in a report. The group compiled the data from reports the companies filed with state regulators.

“Too many of these ‘accidents’ are the norm at some natural gas and chemical plants,” Eric Schaeffer, the Washington-based group’s director, said in a statement. The “EPA needs to crack down on polluters who seem to think that these events -- no matter how many or how severe -- somehow excuse them.”

The group filed two legal notices with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, threatening to sue the government unless it toughens enforcement of those polluters.

The EPA hasn’t received the report, yet, agency spokesman David Bary said in an e-mail.

“‘Texas air rules and permits are vigorously enforced, and all emission events are reviewed,” Terry Clawson, a spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said in an e-mail. Even including these events, “emissions from major point sources have decreased significantly over the last decade.”

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