Houston Challenges Oil Industry to Lower Emissions

The city of Houston is threatening legal action against the oil industry over certain chemical emissions into the air. Houston Mayor Bill White says refineries need to bring down the level of benzene emissions. Benzene is known carcinogen that can lead to bone marrow cancer and other illnesses. Laurie Johnson reports.
Imagine, if you can, a herd of about 90 elephants tipping out a scale at 355 tons. That's how much benzene is emitted into Houston's air every year.

Six months ago, the Greater Houston Partnership released a report with recommendations on how the industry could reduce benzene emissions.

Houston Mayor Bill White says the industry did nothing to respond and has made little progress.

"And next year if the industry still does not have, or the major polluters still do not have publicly disclosed plans to reduce benzene where we can monitor their progress, we will be asking for trials."

And the city just released a 22-point action plan calling for a response from the TCEQ, EPA and the industry.

"We are proud to be home of the energy business. We believe these requests of industry are modest and reasonable. Let's take action item #1: We say the largest benzene emitters should set annual goals concerning their benzene reduction for each of the next five years and should make those goals public."

The companies that emit the most benzene are ExxonMobil, Lyondell and Shell Oil. They operate 10 of the 18 facilities that are cited in the report.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...