is controlling emissions of toxic chemicals particularly in olefins – ethylene and 1-3 butadiene – from refineries and petrochemical plants,” Wolf, 1). A taskforce formed then identified 21 air pollutants ozone, and fine particles that were definite health risks, 12 of which cause cancer and nine causing other serious ailments. Houston, which is at the hub of this deplorable region, has now earned the unenviable tag of the smog capital with emissions of toxic compounds like nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide.
The local municipal authorities have largely proved ineffective in controlling this pandemic as they rely on the equally ineffective Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce the environmental rules. Environmental groups have however strongly advocated for the control of the toxic emissions. These include the Houston-Galveston Citizen’s Air Monitoring Project (HGCAMP) and Community In-power Development Association, Inc. (CIDA) in Port Arthur, and Public Citizen. These environmental groups are however frustrated by the ostensibly stupor of TCEQ in taking action against the violators. TCEQ has nevertheless initiated positive measures by installing new tools to monitor emissions like infrared cameras with heat sensing lens. In 2005, TCEQ reported industry cuts in emissions by 62 percent in South East Texas area since 2003 (Wallach, 1). However, according to Eric Schaeffer of the Environmental Integrity Project, the level of carcinogens emitted in Texas is still very high, with families directly affected by the appalling smell, and headaches prevailing even as the oil barons disparaging liken it to the ‘smell of money!’ (Margonelli, 2).
The Clean Air Act should be extended to include fines on the industries violating the rules by including the cost of cleanups as a deterrent just like in the Water Act.