News Roundup: Report Finds Industry Released More Than 63 Million Pounds Of Unauthorized Pollutants In 2017

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelJanuary 31, 2019 3:51 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

A new report finds Texas industrial facilities released more than 63 million pounds of unauthorized air pollution in 2017. 

Luke Metzger heads up Environment Texas, which released this study.

“And that’s a 27 percent increase over the previous year,” Metzger says. “And these are chemicals that were released linked to a variety of health problems, everything from cancer to heart attacks to respiratory problems.”

Metzger says the state’s environmental regulators are failing to hold companies accountable for air pollution violations.

“We found that while they could issue fines as high as $2.3 billion, with a b, for violations, in 2017, they only levied fines of about $1.2 million with an m, and that works out to about 2 cents per pound of pollution,” he says.

Metzger says if the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality doesn’t crack down on industrial facilities for illegal pollution, it does little to deter it.

“We really need the state to start holding these companies accountable or else the violations will continue,” Metzger says. “And this is the third year we’ve done this report and unfortunately we’re not seeing an improvement. Companies continue to break the law with impunity.”

Metzger adds the Midland area – home to the Permian Basin’s oil boom – accounted for more than half of the state’s illegal pollution in 2017.

The state of Texas is failing to reduce tobacco consumption, according to the American Lung Association. As Houston Public Media’s Davis Land reports, the group gave the state failing grades across the board in their new report.

The group’s calling on the Texas Legislature to restore funding for tobacco prevention that it cut in 2017. They also want Texas to pass a smoke-free air law and increase the minimum age of sale to 21 instead of 18. But Texas isn’t alone in its failing grades. When it comes to prevention and cessation funding, most states failed by the association’s standards. Where Texas is an outlier is in smoke-free air laws and cessation funding – most states have more restrictions on where you can smoke than Texas does, and they also providing more funding to people trying to quit than Texas. The American Lung Association says where the median state investment per smoker is $2.21, Texas only spends $.60.”

A Texas lawmaker wants the state to encourage full participation in the upcoming 2020 Census. It’s amid concerns the Trump administration’s push for a citizenship question – currently held up in court – would undercount people of color.

El Paso State Rep. Cesar Blanco says his call for a “Complete Count Commission” will help ensure Texas fully benefits from the Census, which helps determine a state’s federal funding and how many U.S. Representatives it gets.  He spoke with KUT News during an event in Austin Wednesday about the bill he’s filed to establish the commission.

“Texas is looking to receive potentially three to four Congressional districts. The more representation whether its Republican or Democrat in the U.S. Congress – it’s important to fight for Texas’ fair share,” Blanco says.