Formosa released more than 1 million pounds of contaminants that it was not authorized to in 2017, earning it the title of “worst polluter” in a 15-county region, according to a report released Thursday by Environment Texas Research and Policy Center.
Environment Texas reviewed reports industrial facilities had filed with the state. It found that in 2017, Formosa released more than what the Equistar Corpus Christi and the Valero Corpus Christi Refinery West plants released combined.
Formosa spokesman Steve Marwitz said Hurricane Harvey caused Formosa’s emissions to be higher then.
“However, our numbers are comparable with facilities our size. Formosa is continuously working to reduce emissions and has implemented the best available control technology in our new expansions. The design includes clean fuels such as hydrogen and natural gas,” Marwitz said.
Environment Texas Executive Director Luke Metzger said Harvey did increase emissions but most were preventable.
“... The Environmental Integrity Project’s report last fall found most companies in the Corpus area, by starting their shut downs well in advance of landfall, were able to minimize emissions. Companies that waited until the last minute to shut down were the ones which had the highest emissions,” he said.
Records show that Formosa began shutting down about a day before Harvey made landfall.
The Texas Clean Air Act prohibits facilities from discharging pollutants “in such a concentration and of such duration that ... are or may tend to be injurious to or adversely affect human health or welfare, animal life, vegetation or property.”
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issues air permits to facilities that define the maximum amount of a given pollutant that may be released. Unauthorized emissions are considered those that exceed the amount listed.
Environment Texas called on TCEQ to adopt a mandatory minimum penalty for an unauthorized emission.
From 2011 to 2017, the TCEQ penalized less than 3 percent of unauthorized emissions, according to the report.
“The TCEQ does not comment on the reports of other groups. However, we vigorously defend our enforcement process,” TCEQ spokeswoman Andrea Morrow said.
Environment Texas also called on TCEQ to not excuse facilities’ unauthorized emissions that the facilities say were caused by malfunctions or maintenance.
“In 2017, 275 companies across the state reported 4,067 breakdowns, maintenance incidents and other emission events that resulted in the release of more than 63 million pounds of unauthorized emissions,” according to the report.
“Emission events in Texas lead to the premature deaths of at least 16 people and $148 million in health-related costs per year,” according to the report.