Since March, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has received more than 150 requests to waive environmental regulations from companies that say they can’t comply because of the pandemic, state records show.
Requests came from major oil and gas companies, like ExxonMobil, Marathon Petroleum and Shell. A chunk of the requests were administrative, with companies asking to submit documents electronically or for deadline extensions. But dozens of times, petrochemical companies in Texas also asked to suspend monitoring for chemical leaks.
While leaks aren’t as visible as big flaring events, they can still pose a danger to the environment and surrounding community.
“The majority of the emissions that our communities face are invisible to the naked eye,” said Yvette Arellano, a community organizer with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. “You and I can’t go outside and see the sulfur, the benzene, the butadiene, the ethylene — we can’t see any of that.”
In March, the EPA told companies they didn’t need to inform federal regulators if they couldn’t complete certain air and water pollution monitoring because of the pandemic. This left enforcement largely up to state agencies, prompting the TCEQ to release a statement saying it would grant discretion on a case-by-case basis if companies faced limitations or safety concerns due to the pandemic…