In 2018, polluters reported 4,590 reported unauthorized emissions across Texas, up from 4,067 the prior year. Yet state agencies financially penalized companies for only 1.2% of those releases.
What's more, the penalties totaled just $2 million, equal to one cent per pound of illegal pollution, according to the report. That compares to the $297 million the state could have levied under existing law.
However, Environment Texas' Fraser did point to recent positive sign.
On Wednesday, all three TCEQ commissioners voted to reject a $22,302 fine agency staff had recommended against the company that owns the Port Neches chemical plant that exploded last month.
The commissioners requested that the executive director refer the case against plant owner TPC Group to the Texas Attorney General's Office for enforcement, which could prompt a larger fine or a criminal investigation.
"We'll take that as a victory," Fraser said.
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