Formosa fined $15,775 for releasing carcinogen into air

Sara  Sneath By Sara Sneath

April 19, 2014 at 10:01 p.m.
Updated April 19, 2014 at 11:20 p.m.

Formosa Plastics Corp. in Point Comfort was fined $15,775 by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality for releasing toxins into the air in 2011.

The plant violated the Clean Air Act, releasing 2,066.69 pounds of vinyl chloride monomer, a known carcinogen. But a previous TCEQ inspector and chemist with the Sierra Club says the fine for the air pollution is "puny," considering Formosa's history of pollution.

"Frankly, this plant has a very bad track record. They should have been fined a lot more than this. This fine is peanuts," said Neil Carman, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club clean air program director.

The plant has paid $615,992 in TCEQ fines for 14 air pollution events during the past 15 years, not including the most recent fine. Formosa holds a "significant violation" status with the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act and has paid $80,505 in EPA penalties for air pollution during the past five years, according to a compliance history report.

The 2011 release of toxins occurred when a reactor was overfilled with the monomer, causing the chemical to be released through a pressure relief valve, according to a TCEQ summary. The plant did not report the event properly for two years, though TCEQ requires such an event to be reported within 10 days, according to the summary.

Formosa attempted to report the event within the 10-day period, but the submission did not count because of an oversight in the paperwork, Formosa spokesman Bill Harvey said.

"TCEQ, the regulatory agency, assessed the fine. I have to think they think it's appropriate," Harvey said.

Formosa has paid $6,310 of the fine so far, and $3,155 of the payment was deferred. The remaining $6,310 is in the process of being paid toward replacing older diesel school buses in the area with alternative-fueled or cleaner-burning diesel buses, Harvey said.

Before the fine, Formosa received two warnings from TCEQ for similar violations.

Carman said he thought the "fine should be about 10 times higher than what it is."

"They make it sound like the company has a satisfactory compliance history," Carman said. "It has one of the worst environmental track records in the state."



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