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Analysis of Industry Data Shows 19 Heat-Triggered Pollution Events in Texas Gas Fields

Reported failures endanger public health, contribute to climate change, and could destabilize the power grid

AUSTIN, Texas – The dangerous heat wave that gripped Texas for much of June triggered 19 pollution events at gas fields – all but one in West Texas – when high temperatures threatened critical equipment, according to an analysis of industry data reported to the state.

The analysis by Public Citizen, with assistance from Commission Shift, looked at data reported to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality State of Texas Emissions Event Report Database (STEERS). It shows the pollution events totaled almost 400 tons of pollution attributed to high temperatures from June 15-29, with most releases occurring at gas facilities. Gas plants and compressor stations are especially vulnerable to increased pressure caused by the heat, forcing companies to release pollution to ease the strain.

“It is sadly ironic that the fossil fuel industry is seeing its equipment threatened by a situation it helped create,” said Adrian Shelley, Texas director of Public Citizen. “But as usual, people and their health stand to pay the price. As important as the transition to cleaner energy sources is, so is preparing existing fossil fuel infrastructure for the new reality of heat waves that are more intense and frequent.”

Because Texas relies heavily on gas-fueled power plants, weaknesses in the system could threaten to destabilize the grid.

Some key findings of the analysis include:

  • 19 pollution events were attributed to high temperatures between June 15 and 29, 2023.
  • 10 facilities experienced pollution events, including four gas plants, four compressor stations, one tank battery, and one chemical manufacturing plant.
  • 9 of 10 impacted facilities were in West Texas’ natural gas extraction industry. One facility was a chemical plant in the Houston region.
  • 791,1354 pounds (395 tons) of pollution were released, including 19 unique pollutants.
  • More than 91% of the pollution released—725,382 pounds (362 tons)—was natural gas.

For the full analysis, including an explanation of the methodology, click here. The raw data is available upon request.