Engineering News

Texas Levies $6.5M In Fines for Releases
Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The state has ordered two Lyondell Chemical Co. subsidiaries to pay a total of $6.5 million in pollution fines, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Monday.

Equistar Chemicals LP and Millennium Petrochemicals were charged in December 2005 after a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigation revealed that seven Lyondell facilities released harmful emissions, including volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide over an extended period of time.

Equistar and Millennium were each ordered to pay $3.25 million in pollution penalties. They must also set aside $500,000 to fund environmental projects chosen by TCEQ.

Gayden Cooper, a spokeswoman for the two companies, said all of the problems that were outlined have either been corrected or there is a plan in place to correct them.

"Texas has an obligation to enforce environmental laws that protect the health and safety of its residents," Abbott said in a news release. "Industrial growth must be balanced with environmental stewardship in order to ensure a bright future for our state."

Cooper said more than $250 million has been spent in the past six years to upgrade facilities.

"We're a responsible company. We want to do the right thing," she said.

The investigation found that the plants in La Porte, Channelview and Chocolate Bayou either ignored long-term pollutant releases or did very little to remedy chronic problems over time.

For example, Abbott said, investigators found that Millennium's La Porte plant may have allowed its pressurized rail cars to vent uncontrolled chemical emissions directly into the atmosphere.

Cooper said the La Porte plant was purchased in December 2004 and the company began to work to bring it into compliance after discovering problems after the purchase was completed.

Plants in Corpus Christi, Bayport and Beaumont self-reported multiple violations to the TCEQ. The defendants' required self-reporting to TCEQ indicated that Equistar and Millennium failed to implement required detection and repair programs that should have addressed valve, connector, pump and other component leaks. According to the defendants' own reports, thousands of components were ignored.

The Houston area has been designated an ozone non-attainment zone by the federal government. Polluters in these zones are required to implement controls and technological innovations that curb ozone-forming emissions into the air. Ozone is commonly known as smog.

The Lyondell, Equistar and Millennium companies manufacture basic chemicals and derivatives such as ethylene, propylene, titanium oxide, styrene, polyethylene, propylene oxide and acetyls.

Source: AFX News Limited

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