Almost half of the state’s major industrial facilities released illegal levels of pollution into waterways during a 21-month period ending September 2017, far exceeding the rest of the county in illegal polluting, according to a new report.
Of the 8,148 incidents of pollution exceeding federal safety levels in U.S. waters between January 2016 and September 2017, Texas businesses accounted for 938 of those incidents, according to a report by Frontier Group and Environment America Research and Policy Center.
Pennsylvania companies had the second highest for any state with 633 incidents of illegal polluting in waterways, according to the report.
The Trump administration has rarely penalized companies for violating federal clean waters laws and polluting rivers, bays and other waterways around Texas, according to the report. And proposed cuts to the Environmental Protect Agency’s budget further reduce the emphasis on enforcement, the report stated.
“Though the Clean Water Act has made some progress bringing our waters back to health, a closer look at compliance with and enforcement of the law reveals an overly lenient system that too often allows pollution without accountability,” the authors wrote.
“State and federal agencies are failing to take strong enforcement action to stop these rampant excess discharges of pollution into America’s waters.”
The groups analyzed self-reported industry data submitted to the federal government and found 40 percent of major industrial facilities had at least one instance in which the company had exceeded its allowable discharge and dumped excess pollution into a waterway.
In Texas, about half of the major industrial facilities had an instance of illegal water pollution and many had multiple excesses, according to the report.
The state’s ranking is largely related to having a high number of industrial facilities because the state is home to many large cities and the nation’s largest petrochemical and refining industry, according to the study.
Most of the companies polluted without penalty from state or federal environmental agencies, according to the report. Those that were fined often had minimal penalties. In 2017, the median fine assessed by the Environmental Protection Agency was lower than in any year since 2011, according to the report.
“Each year from 2011 to 2017, an average of 27,849 facilities were non-compliant across the U.S., while an average of 13,076 — less than half — faced any EPA or state enforcement action,” the report stated.
Proposed cuts likely will lead to even fewer penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act, the study’s authors said. For fiscal year 2019, the administration plans to cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget for civil enforcement of environmental protection programs, including the Clean Water Act, by $30.4 million, according to the report.