TCEQ is missing in action and Houstonians’ health is being put at risk. We deserve answers. #CleanUpTCEQ

Jon Niermann, chairman, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)

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Major chemical incidents are far too frequent in the Houston area, putting our health and well-being at risk. The Houston Chronicle found in 2016 that there is one every six weeks. Since March, communities along the Ship Channel have experienced possibly the worst series of exposures to carcinogenic benzene in an urban setting seen in the United States.

Is protecting your health TCEQ’s top priority?

  • The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) rarely penalizes industry for unauthorized releases of harmful air pollution, like cancer-causing benzene.

  • The agency also snubbed NASA’s plan to fly a pollution-spotting plane over Houston after Harvey, causing unnecessary risk to the health and safety to our families, friends and neighbors.

  • It is unclear that the agency took a single measurement during and after Harvey because it has not released any raw data.

  • It seems to work harder at expediting permits for industrial polluters than enforcing the safeguards already in place.

There is a lack of transparency – again.

  • Public safety requires transparency. Since the Deer Park fire started, the public has received only general statements, saying air quality is “normal” or “does not meet actionable levels.” But officials have not provided data or explained the basis for those statements.

  • TCEQ’s Deer Park air quality monitor stopped taking measurements hours after the fire began.

  • During Hurricane Harvey, TCEQ and EPA made repeated statements that air quality was not at levels of concern despite industry reporting the release of millions of pounds of excess air pollution because of shutdowns, startups and storm-related damage. EPA later acknowledged that there were hotspots.

  • Following a tanker collision in the Houston Ship Channel, TCEQ waited hours to tell anyone about spike of benzene 14 times higher than the level it considers safe. State officials said the agency “failed to coordinate and fully integrate with Unified Command regarding their air quality results.”

We need solutions.

We need readily available risk management plans so emergency responders and the public have specific information on potential hazards at chemical facilities. Right now they are difficult to obtain in the state of Texas.

We need a toxic alert system because people must be aware of the risks to their health and safety in a timely manner.

We need robust environmental agencies at all levels. With TCEQ failing at its job, the Trump administration’s massive proposed cuts for EPA are deeply reckless.

We need a Chemical Disaster Rule that forces industry to make necessary assessments and investments to improve safety at these plants.

We need Texas lawmakers to close the loophole that allows industry to avoid penalties for unauthorized pollution releases.

We need detailed action plans in place that provide clarity and certainty during major releases of benzene.

Do you agree? Sign, share, and join Houston’s fight for clean air, every day, for everyone in Houston.


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To: Jon Niermann, chairman, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)
From: [Your Name]

We are calling on you to deliver solutions that can protect the health and safety of Houston area residents and first-responders:

We need readily available risk management plans so emergency responders and the public have specific information on potential hazards at chemical facilities. Right now they are difficult to obtain in the state of Texas.

We need a toxic alert system because people must be aware of the risks to their health and safety in a timely manner.

We need a Chemical Disaster Rule that forces industry to make necessary assessments and investments to improve safety at these plants.

We need Texas lawmakers to close the loophole that allows industry to avoid penalties for unauthorized pollution releases.

Signed,
Houston-area residents