Seven Texas Petrochemical Plants Must Stop Air Pollution
AUSTIN, Texas, August 27, 2008 (ENS) – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has resolved the state’s environmental enforcement action against two Lyondell Chemical Company subsidiaries that operated seven petrochemical plants in Houston and along the Gulf Coast.
Under an agreed final judgment proposed by the state, defendants Equistar Chemicals and Millenium Petrochemicals Inc. will each pay $3.25 million in penalties, Abbott announced Monday.
In December 2006, the attorney general charged the Lyondell subsidiaries with repeatedly failing to prevent the release of harmful pollutants into the atmosphere.
“Texas has an obligation to enforce environmental laws that protect the health and safety of its residents,” Abbott said. “Industrial growth must be balanced with environmental stewardship in order to ensure a bright future for our state. We are committed to working with industry leaders to protect the quality of our air, water and natural resources for future generations.”
The La Porte plant is on the south shore of the Houston Ship Channel. (Photo courtesy Lyondell)
Under the proposed agreement, Equistar and Millenium will each set aside $500,000 to fund supplemental environmental projects identified by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The agreement still is subject to court approval.
An investigation by the TCEQ revealed that the seven Lyondell facilities released harmful emissions, including volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide, into the atmosphere over a long period of time.
The TCEQ discovered that the defendants’ plants in La Porte, Channelview and Chocolate Bayou either ignored long-term pollutant releases or did very little to remedy chronic problems over time.
Investigators found that Millennium’s La Porte plant may have allowed its pressurized rail cars to vent uncontrolled chemical emissions directly into the atmosphere. Plants in Corpus Christi, Bayport and Beaumont self-reported multiple violations to the state environmental agency.
According to the defendants’ own reports, thousands of components were ignored. Equistar and Millennium failed to implement required detection and repair programs that should have addressed valve, connector, pump and other component leaks.
For years, the Houston area has been designated an ozone non-attainment zone by the federal government. Polluters in these zones are required to implement controls and technological innovations that curb air emissions that form ground-level ozone, or smog.
With $16 billion in assets, Lyondell Chemical Company is one of the world’s largest chemical manufacturers and a refiner of heavy, high-sulfur crude oil.
The Lyondell, Equistar and Millennium companies manufacture basic chemicals and derivatives such as ethylene, propylene, titanium oxide, styrene, polyethylene, propylene oxide and acetyls.
The seven plants involved in the state’s environmental enforcement action are located in La Porte, Channelview, Chocolate Bayou, Corpus Christi, Bayport and Beaumont.