On Sunday, Reuters reported a release of tons of pollutants into the air due to the Arctic Freeze in Texas. Refineries and petrochemical plants shut down in a hurry as freezing temperatures spread across the states. This impacted the power and natural gas supplies needed to keep the plants up and running. The shutdown also resulted in the burning and release of gases to prevent the damage of processing units.
The five largest refiners released almost 337,000 pounds of pollutants, according to the Texas Commission on Environment Quality’s (TCEQ) data. Benzene, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and sulfur dioxide are part of the pollutants released.
Jane Williams, chair of the Sierra Club’s National Clean Air Team, told Reuters, “These emissions can dwarf the usual emissions of the refineries by orders of magnitude.” She added, “U.S. regulators must change policies that allow these massive emissions to occur with impunity.”
According to filings with TCEQ, Valero Energy released 78,000 pounds of pollutants from its Port Arthur refinery. Motiva released 118,100 pounds of emissions. It is three times more than the amount of excess emissions is reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2019. In the upcoming two weeks, the final figures for the emissions are expected.
A researcher for the advocacy group Earthworks, Sharon Wilson, told Reuters that “multiple emission releases are alarming as there is no safe amount of Benzene for human exposure.” On Saturday, President Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Texas. Similar emergency declarations have been instated for Oklahoma and Louisiana.