Hurricane Harvey Air Pollution: Interactive Database

Air Pollution Reported by Oil Refineries, Chemical Plants, and Industrial Facilities

by Connor Gibson

October 25, 2017

Reports filed by companies to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) show that over 5.7 million pounds of air pollution were released by chemical plants, oil refineries and industrial facilities in the month after Harvey made landfall. 90% of this air pollution was released by 13 companies.

©Aaron M. Sprecher/Greenpeace

Click for full-page Hurricane Harvey Air Pollution DatabaseScroll down for Methodology & References.

Total Air Pollution Reported: 5,700,328 lbs

Total of Most Hazardous Chemicals: 1,529,483 lbs

12 Companies Responsible for 90% Percent of Total Air Pollution:

  1. Magellan Midstream Partners, (2.529 million lbs, 44.4% of total)
  2. Valero Energy (579,351 lbs, 10%)
  3. Saudi Aramco (439,244 lbs, 7.7%)
  4. Dow Chemical (352,640 lbs, 6.1%)
  5. INEOS (244,111 lbs, 4.3%)
  6. Kinder Morgan (166,057 lbs, 2.9%)
  7. Formosa Plastics (160,692 lbs, 2.8%)
  8. Total (155,726 lbs, 2.7%)
  9. ExxonMobil (130,928 lbs, 2.3%)
  10. Enbridge (115,484 lbs, 2%)
  11. Royal Dutch Shell (114,996, 2%)
  12. LyondellBasell (114,749, 2%)
    Total = 5,103,197; 90%

10 Companies Responsible for 90% Percent of Most Hazardous Chemicals:

  1. Magellan Midstream Partners, (534,310 lbs, 34.9%)
  2. Valero Energy (274,051 lbs, 17.9%)
  3. Saudi Aramco (179,118 lbs, 11.7%)
  4. Total (147,823 lbs, 9.7%)
  5. Enbridge (74,970 lbs, 4.9%)
  6. Dow Chemical (53,844 lbs, 3.5%)
  7. ExxonMobil (45,949 lbs, 3%)
  8. Cabot Oil & Gas (33,611 lbs, 2.2%)
  9. Royal Dutch Shell (32,777 lbs, 2.1%)
  10. Marathon Petroleum (24,768 lbs, 1.6%)
    Total = 1,401,221 lbs, 91.6%

Economic Injustice:

42 out of 45 facilities are located in communities with above-average rates of poverty (excludes 11 facilities without available data)

Environmental Racism:

43 out of 45 facilities with available data are located in communities that are disproportionately inhabited by people of color (excludes 11 facilities without available data).

Cities facing the most air pollution:

  1. Galena Park (2.529 million lbs, 44.7% of total)
  2. Port Arthur (931,264 lbs, 16.34%)
  3. Freeport (351,519 lbs, 6.17%)
  4. Corpus Christi (301,734 lbs, 5.29%)
  5. Alvin (242,323 lbs, 4.25%)
  6. Houston (239,003 lbs, 4.19%)

Cities facing the most toxic chemicals:

  1. Galena Park (534,310 lbs, 34.9%)
  2. Port Arthur (508,793 lbs, 33.3%)
  3. Corpus Christi (112,377 lbs, 7.4%)
  4. Streetman (74,970 lbs, 4.9%)
  5. Freeport (53,842 lbs, 3.5%)

Total of Unspecified Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): 232,212 lbs

(See full-page Hurricane Harvey Air Pollution Database)

Mapping Tools for Harvey Pollution:

REFERENCES:

Community Groups, Scientists, and Environmental Advocates:

Activities at a refining plant in Port Arthur, Texas more than a week after Hurricane Harvey slammed the area. The human impacts of Hurricane Harvey have been staggering, and the greatest concern is for the people struggling in its aftermath. This disaster makes clear once again that coastal Texas and the wider Gulf region are on the frontlines of sea level rise and extreme weather heightened by climate change, as well as the toxic impacts from fossil fuel infrastructure.

Media Reports:

Workers in protective suits stand in the middle of oil covering Hurricane Harvey flood waters at a refinery in La Porte, Texas, more than a week after the hurricane hit the area. The human impacts of Hurricane Harvey have been staggering, and the greatest concern is for the people struggling in its aftermath. This disaster makes clear once again that coastal Texas and the wider Gulf region are on the frontlines of sea level rise and extreme weather heightened by climate change, as well as the toxic impacts from fossil fuel infrastructure.

METHODOLOGY:

Data collection began on September 5, 2017, with help from Athena Matyear. There were only 39 final reports filed at that time. This limits our data, as final reports replace the initial reports on the TCEQ website after being filed (out of 143 final reports). Thus, 39 initial reports filed by 26 distinct facilities are missing from our collection.

For comparison sake, we included the ability to swap between data from initial and final estimates of pollution reported to TCEQ. Users can see which companies initially underestimated their air pollution, and which companies over-estimated the extent of pollution.

We included every incident reported to TCEQ Regions 10 (Beaumont), 12 (Houston) and 14 (Corpus Christi) from August 23, 2017, when many refineries began to shut down, to September 25, 2017, a month after Harvey made landfall. We also included data from other TCEQ regions when reports clearly indicated that the pollution was a consequence of hurricane Harvey.

As of October 24, 2017, not all final reports have been published. 20 final reports remain un-filed. Many of these reports are “opacity events,” an industry term for smoke pollution at facilities, which are not measured in pounds and will not affect current totals.

We merged a few groups of chemicals for the sake of simplifying some of the data that is displayed. We consolidated various types of butanes, butenes, pentanes, pentenes, and xylenes, which were (infrequently) reported by companies with specific isomers or variations. We merged “xylene, mixed isomers” and “xylene-n” into “xylenes,” as an example. We also combined nitrogen oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) to display as “Nitrogen Oxides (NOx),” as both chemicals have similar effects in terms of acid rain, smog formation, and human health. All other chemicals are listed exactly as companies reported them. If in doubt, follow our sources to the TCEQ website and look at the exact entry by the company.

“Most Hazardous Chemicals”

With credit to a September 1, 2017 report by Shaye Wolf at the Center for Biological Diversity, our “most hazardous chemicals” list is very similar:

“Parent Company”

In many cases, the TCEQ reports filed by petrochemical and industrial facilities are credited to the company that owns or operates the facility, but not the ultimate parent company. To the best of our ability, we have identified the ultimate parent company of each of the subsidiaries that filed reports.

“Source Report No.”

Each TCEQ has a six-digit number attributed to it. Adding this feature as a row or column of the database allows you to click on individual cells and open up the primary source data, and a link to the TCEQ page.

“Equipment Source of Contaminant”

Many of the facilities that were hit by Harvey are very large, and emitted air pollution from several distinct areas within the facility. The TCEQ reports specify which equpiment that chemicals were leaked, spilled, or flared from.

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE DATA:

Population demographics around specific industrial facilities was published in 2016 by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. See PERI’s methodology for “environmental justice ratios” which notes that  “in 2014 in the U.S., the share of people living in poverty was 14.5% and the share of the population that identified as Hispanic or nonwhite was 36.3 percent.”

This data is displayed as “Population Living in Poverty (%)” and “Population People of Color (%).” It is only applicable to specific facilities–for example, the data will not display as averages if you attempt to apply “Population People of Color” to the county of Brazoria, or to all facilities owned by ExxonMobil.

Some data was not available, but for seven facilities without available data, we were able to locate other facilities in the PERI database that are physically close (within a mile) of the facility without data. Here are the exact substitutions we used:

And, for the Magellan Midstream facility in Galena Park, data was provided by the Union of Concerned Scientists and T.e.j.a.s. 2016 report, “Double Jeopardy in Houston.”

A flare burns at an oil refinery in Baytown, Texas more than a week after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the area. The human impacts of Hurricane Harvey have been staggering, and the greatest concern is for the people struggling in its aftermath. This disaster makes clear once again that coastal Texas and the wider Gulf region are on the frontlines of sea level rise and extreme weather heightened by climate change, as well as the toxic impacts from fossil fuel infrastructure.

SOURCE DATA:

Our source spreadsheet is available for download, below.

Primary sources directly from TCEQ is easy to access, via a pop-up menu, by clicking the any of the cells in the database while the “Source Report No.” realm is included.

Greenpeace compiled air pollution reports submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) that occurred during the Hurricane Harvey disaster. TCEQ reports submitted by petrochemical refineries, chemical plants, oil & gas compressor stations, terminals, and other industrial sites provide estimates of the type and amounts of chemicals released, in pounds. Data includes pollution from the shutdown and start-up process for many refineries and chemical plants, as well as releases due to physical damage from Harvey.

This data is voluntarily reported by the facilities and companies. There were no official air monitoring efforts by state or federal officials during and after hurricane Harvey, and thus, no way to verify data submitted to TCEQ.

Greenpeace’s database does not include filings to the Texas Railroad Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Coast Guard, or any other government agencies.

Data does not include estimates of chemicals released from Superfund sites, Brownfields, sewage and water treatment facilities, or other potential point-sources of air and water pollution reported after the storm.

Connor Gibson

By Connor Gibson

Connor Gibson does research for Greenpeace's Investigations team. He focuses on polluting industries, their front groups and PR operatives, particularly focusing on the Koch Brothers.

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