People, Environment

Refineries Release Pollutants as Storm Hits Texas

Refineries Release Pollutants as Storm Hits TexasRefineries Release Pollutants as Storm Hits Texas

Pollutants have been released from refineries operated by Exxon, Shell and other companies, as torrential rains damaged storage tanks and other industrial facilities on the Texas Coast.

Shell told state regulators this week that a floating roof over a tank at its oil refinery in Deer Park, Texas, partially sank during the heavy rainfall. The company said 100 pounds of benzene and 100 pounds of toluene were released.

A similar event happened at Exxon Mobil Corp.'s refinery in Baytown, Texas.

David Gray, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency, said the company reported the release of 15 pounds of benzene. The EPA classifies benzene as a carcinogen. Toluene, a solvent, is less toxic.

"This is an unprecedented storm and we have taken every effort to minimize emissions and safely shut down equipment," said Exxon Spokeswoman Charlotte Huffaker.

She said the Irving, Texas-based company is monitoring emission levels and committed to complying with environmental laws.

Other refinery and chemical plant operators have reported releases due to Harvey, which came ashore as a hurricane but was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

The disclosures highlight the danger posed by flooding in a refinery-rich section of the Gulf Coast that stretches from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Louisiana.

The flooding has caused the shutdown of about 15% of the nation's refining capacity, sending gasoline prices higher.


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