By Kiah Collier and Ryan Murphy
Adrian Shelley, who for years monitored unauthorized air emissions as head of the nonprofit environmental advocacy group Air Alliance Houston, said near-misses like the Shell incident “do happen, and I suspect we would be surprised to know the frequency.”
But environmental groups say TCEQ’s approach clearly isn’t working because the same plants are exceeding their air permit limits over and over again.
Shelley, the former Air Alliance Houston executive director who now oversees the Texas office of the government watchdog group Public Citizen, said TCEQ’s enforcement of unpermitted emissions is so lax that it raises the question of why the government even tries to limit them.
“We can require permits, but if the company is going to claim [that unpermitted emissions are unavoidable] as a matter of course and the state isn’t going to challenge it in 95 percent of cases — and it’s probably even more than that — then what does it matter?” Shelley asked.
Shelley said advocates are not asking for zero emissions: “We would love it if they’d just follow their permits.”