When black smoke escapes from the refinery across the road, local residents have only one way to protect theirlungs from this toxic attack: they are closing the door. South of the United States, Texas is the state that emits the most greenhouse gases in the country. This record is explained by the massive combustion of coal to produce electricity and by an economy which rests essentially on dirty industries like petroleum and chemistry.
What makes people sick is part of the picture, and for many officials such as Governor, it is even local folklore. The latter has just declared that he would abolish the Ministry of the Environment if he accessed the White House. His opponents point out that the legislation is lax, light controls and companies have little incentive to comply with environmental rules, fines of anecdotal amount being rarely applied.
Wild emissions of contaminants
State control bodies respond that results on the ground are the best way to judge the effectiveness of environmental measures. If everything they say was true, the air quality would not improve according to the spokesperson for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. But if greenhouse gas emissions are actually decreasing, they are still at a worrying level, as is the number of illegal dumping. Recently there were 2,553 wild emission acts that released 2.73 million kilos of contaminants into the sky. The State initiated proceedings in 123 of these cases and drew up an offense report in 172 other cases.
The decision by oil tanker BP to continue refining after the Texas City facility fire burned out pollution controls for 40 days last year. Rare fact, it also pushed the State to introduce civil penalties, beyond the fines generally limited to 10.000 dollars per day. However, in this example, no action was taken to ask BP to cease operating, rather than simply burning the gas flares, or reporting to local authorities on the progress of the pollution.
The local authorities encourage people to recycle and employ better waste management practices. Residents and businesses can rent a dumpster in Tyler and other cities in Texas like Houston and Austin, so they can discard junk in bulk. This is a way to reduce pollution. Another way is also to consume more responsibly and use less plastic bags .
A small band of environmental activists take samples
Since regulation is very loose in matters of the environment, the people who are supposed to monitor all this, do not examine the situation adequately according to the director of the Texan antenna of the defense organization of the environment Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. On the strength of this observation, the inhabitants of Port Arthur, a city tainted by its centuries-old refinery industries, decided to take matters into their own hands. Armed with air monitoring devices made with buckets and plastic bags, a small band of environmental activists take samples for testing in independent laboratories.
And they have already reaped some substantial victories, such as forcing Motiva to install new pollution control procedures, funding an annual air test, and setting up a $ 3.5 million economic development fund. But children remain sick while factory owners postpone maintenance that would reduce the frequency of toxic air emissions. At least three times a month, one of these factories will be damaged which will release tons of toxic products into the air according to environmental activists.
Most of the time, the state looks elsewhere and tells us that it is nothing. Even if the locals are forced to put a wet towel over their faces just to breathe. People are concerned about the long-term consequences. But at the same time, they do not want the closure of refineries, a major provider of jobs in the region.