Little oversight of petrochemical companies’ excess emissions, grantee finds

Writing for Grist, with support from the Fund, reporters Naveena Sadasivam, Clayton Aldern, Jessie Blaeser, and Chad Small documented so-called “excess emissions,” the intentional and at times inevitable pollution emitted beyond levels allowed by government permits. From petrochemical refineries on the Gulf Coast to oil and gas wells in West Texas, hundreds of polluting facilities routinely spew millions more pounds of chemicals into the air than their permits allow. The emissions contain nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and a slew of carcinogenic chemicals. Companies claim that the need to expel these chemicals is unavoidable when there are malfunctions or natural disasters. Courts have repeatedly held that these types of emissions are illegal, but state regulatory agencies, which are tasked with deciding whether to penalize the companies, rarely do.  Between 2016 and 2022, Texas regulators found that less than 1% of these prompted corrective action, the reporters found.