Industry responses to A Pass to Poison

The Texas Tribune analyzed an online database of reports industrial facilities submitted to the state between 2012 and 2016 whenever they emitted more air pollution than allowed by their government-issued permits. As part of that analysis, we identified which of them are emitting the highest amount of pollutants that scientists and public health experts say are the most damaging to human health and the environment: sulfur dioxide; 1,3-butadiene; benzene; hydrogen sulfide; nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. We asked the parent companies of the Top 10 emitters of each of those pollutants to comment on our analysis; nine responded in writing via email. Their statements are below. They have been edited for length and clarity.

[Read about how the state of Texas allows industrial facilities to repeatedly spew unauthorized air pollution — with few consequences.]

DCP Midstream (Goldsmith Gas Plant)

“DCP Midstream has placed a significant focus on improving the reliability of its facilities and has made step changes in improving our overall reliability. In particular at our Goldsmith facility, we have achieved significant improvement over the past 18 months and this continues to be an integral focus area.”

Dow Texas Operations (Dow Texas Operations Freeport)

“Dow’s highest priorities are the protection of employees, the community and the environment. With more than 40 production units and over 8,000 people working inside our fence, Dow Texas Operations in Freeport is the largest chemical manufacturing complex in the Western Hemisphere.

We are the nation’s largest producers of products used to address the world’s most challenging problems such as providing clean water, renewable energy, energy conservation, and increasing agricultural productivity.

The site’s position on your list is a reflection of the size, scale, and complexity of Freeport’s operations, including our own power generation. We are subject to strict state and federal permit and emission regulations and we are continually seeking technologies and innovations that reduce our emissions.”

Cabot Corporation (Marshall Plant)

“Since Cabot Corporation acquired Norit in 2012, we have made significant investment in resources and infrastructure. Cabot has spent more than $50 million on environmental, process and technology improvements at the Marshall facility. We closely monitor environmental compliance of our operations and address issues when they occur. We have also created a Community Advisory Panel in Marshall to ensure transparency and engage with the community on priority issues. We continue to invest in projects that will improve our plants’ ability to comply with all requirements and reduce our environmental impacts.”

Energy Transfer Partners (Keystone Gas Plant)

“We continually strive to operate our facilities in the safest and most responsible manner possible and we remain in constant contact with the appropriate regulatory agencies.  Safety is our top priority; the safety of our employees, the safety of those who live and work in the area and the safety of the environment.”

Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Mallet CO2 Recovery Plant; Johnson GBSA UNIT CB; MR Barry Batt & Water Station)

“Occidental has had a continuing focus on flaring responsibly, and has employed cutting-edge technologies and processes that have contributed to the decline in emissions related to these types of events. Changes in operations at the Mallet CO2 Recovery Plant have resulted in significant improvements.

Occidental is committed to responsible environmental stewardship throughout its operations. We integrate programs and systems to prevent and mitigate incidents and reduce risks to our employees, contractors and the communities where we operate, while complying with environmental laws and regulations.”

Apache Corporation (WA Coons Battery)

“This air emissions report is the result of a third-party's plant downtime and was not a result of normal Apache Corporation operations at the facility. Most importantly, the report appears to be based on estimated gas volumes that were significantly overstated by a consultant who submitted them to TCEQ without appropriate review, in violation of our policies. Apache no longer works with this consulting firm, however their actions skewed estimates of emissions as well. We have reached out to TCEQ and are working to resubmit and correct the inaccuracies. Apache Corporation complies with all state and federal air quality regulations and is committed to going above and beyond to ensure our operations are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner.”

Hess Corporation

“As part of Hess’ commitment to safe and responsible operations, we have been implementing enhancements to the maintenance program at our Seminole Gas Plant and are planning major plant systems and equipment upgrades in 2017. We believe this will significantly reduce the plant’s emissions and improve its performance going forward.”

Formosa Plastics (Formosa Point Comfort Plant)

“In response to your request, Formosa Plastics staff has carefully reviewed records regarding emissions of benzene and 1,3-butadiene during the period of 2012-2016.  The number of events and emission totals gathered in your review of the TCEQ ‘Air Emission Event Report Database’ for benzene (25 reports totaling 7,212.63 pounds) and 1,3-butadiene (15 reports totaling 33,840.26 pounds) are consistent with the reports submitted by Formosa Plastics to TCEQ.”

Shell Oil Deer Park

“The numbers provided appear correct.  We would note that three specific events accounted for over 96 percent of the butadiene emitted, and one of those three emission events also accounted for over 91 percent of the benzene emitted.

Each of the reportable emission events noted during the 5-year period have their own unique circumstances, and each is investigated both internally by Shell and also by the TCEQ.  Shell’s response to TCEQ enforcement actions received for these emission events includes the cause and corrective actions to prevent future recurrence of the root cause(s) of each emission event.”