Work to resume at Formosa

Formosa Plastic Corp. Texas facility in Point Comfort.

Texas isn’t enforcing some environmental rules a result of Hurricane Harvey.

Gov. Greg Abbott suspended more than a dozen of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s rules related to air pollution, spill prevention and control, underground injection wells, underground and above ground storage tanks, and waste.

The agency requested Abbott do so because it thought enforcing the rules would impede response to the disaster.

In the Crossroads, Formosa in Point Comfort, Ineos Nitriles’ site in Green Lake, Dow in Seadrift and Invista in Victoria shut down as Harvey barreled toward the coast.

The plants normally have to report emissions.

Under this suspension, they don’t have to because TCEQ understands lightning, flood, fires, wind or windblown damage and power outages might have caused the emission.

The same goes for spills and incidents at underground injection wells and underground or aboveground tanks.

To see a full list of suspended rules, click here.

“Texas law provides for a defense against an enforcement action where the regulated entity can establish that the violation was caused solely by an act of God, war, strike, riot or other catastrophe,” Richard Hyde, the agency’s director, wrote in a memo.

Hyde recommended the entities take note of all activities they think fall under this defense, though, “and at all times apply best engineering and pollution control practices as required by applicable standards.”

This suspension of environmental rules is in effect until terminated by governor or until the Harvey disaster declaration is lifted or expires.

TCEQ has also called about 300 public water systems and 100 wastewater systems in areas affected by Harvey over the weekend to check on their status and provide assistance.

It is setting up a mobile command post in Corpus Christi and collaborating with the Environmental Protection Agency.

As of Monday, there were 48 boil water notices in the state. In the Crossroads, that includes the cities of Victoria, Port Lavaca and Goliad; the Sunrise Bay Subdivision in Jackson County; the Port O’Connor Improvement District and the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority Calhoun County Rural Water System.

The city of Seadrift’s water system was listed by the TCEQ as inoperable. It serves about 1,400 people.

Wastewater systems that were listed as inoperable include Bloomington ISD, the city of Austwell and Farmers Transport Inc. in Calhoun County.

The Texas Railroad Commission, meanwhile, took a different route.

It reminded oil and gas operators that they must immediately notify the agency of a leak or spill into water.

It also encourage the public to report any leaks or spills to its toll-free emergency line at 1-844-773-0305. Its inspectors are in Austin and have received only two spill notifications so far in Harris and Jefferson counties, Spokeswoman Ramona Nye said.

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Former Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest worked for the Victoria Advocate from August 2012-September 2019, first as the courts reporter and then as the environment/investigations reporter. Read her work now at www.jessicapriest.me.

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