EPA Watchdog Finds Air Pollution Monitoring Fell Short During Harvey

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General found that state and federal environmental regulators didn't start monitoring air quality soon enough during the monster storm, which brought a spike in hazardous emissions from industrial facilities.”

“As Hurricane Harvey churned toward Texas in August 2017, oil refineries and other facilities on the state’s heavily industrialized upper Gulf Coast shut down, initiating the release of what companies, government regulators and environmental groups estimated to be millions of pounds of hazardous air pollution. They spewed out even more when they restarted.

But the exact extent and human impact of those emissions is largely unknown because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality didn’t begin monitoring air quality quickly enough, according to a report issued Monday by the EPA’s internal watchdog agency.

The report, which noted that many of the Houston area's stationary air monitors were turned off and secured ahead of Harvey's landfall, found that the mobile air monitoring the EPA and TCEQ conducted “didn’t coincide” with a majority of the air pollution events that companies reported to the state.”

Kiah Collier reports for the Texas Tribune December 16, 2019.