Monday, March 23, 2009


From the Houston Chronicle:

EPA: Toxic emissions in Texas drop in 2007

Texas industries released fewer toxic chemicals into the environment in 2007 than the year before, according to newly released federal data.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s latest statistics show that the state’s emissions dropped 7 percent, outpacing the reductions of the nation as a whole.

Still, Texas remained one of the biggest polluters among states, behind Alaska, Ohio and Indiana in the release of chemicals that cause cancer, neurological damage or other ills.

Harris County, meanwhile, continued to lead Texas — and ranked No. 11 among counties nationwide — with the release of 39 million pounds of toxic chemicals. The county, home to 321 chemical plants, factories and refineries, reported a 4 percent reduction from 2006 to 2007.

Brazoria County ranked second in the state with 31 million pounds, and Jefferson County was third with 21 million pounds.

The EPA’s annual Toxic Release Inventory tracks the emissions of 650 chemicals at 22,000 facilities nationwide. Although the inventory has become a widely used resource since it started in 1988, it has been criticized for relying on industry-reported estimates.

More here.

Well, misleading headlines aside, the opening paragraphs of the article tell you just about everything you need to know. Texas emissions are down, but on a sliding scale, Texas continues to have incredibly toxic air. That is, when you weigh four hundred pounds, losing twenty is nice, but barely scratches the surface. When you're at rock bottom, there's nowhere to go but up.

Of course, the saddest part of this is that we don't even really know that Texas has cut toxic emissions by seven percent: this an industry figure, not something researched by the EPA; worse, it's an industry estimate--they don't even know, or at least, they don't want to reveal the actual numbers. For that matter, we don't even really know how bad Texas pollution actually is.

And the punchline to all this, for me anyway, is that I've spent most of my life in Harris County, the worst in Texas, and one of the worst in the nation. Maybe. If the industry reported figures are accurate, which I'm pretty certain are not. Even funnier, when I was teaching, I spent six years living in East Harris County, which is the worst in the county.

I'll be lucky if I don't end up with eye cancer or something equally rare and bizarre.