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Study: Texas "substantially weaker" than neighbors on cleanup guidelines for polluted sites

Texas has a reputation for putting its business concerns ahead of environmental ones. A recent study seems to confirm that reputation. 
A report due out Tuesday, Sept. 11 from the Texas Campaign for the Environment Fund found the state’s “substantially weaker” regulations “may allow residential homes to be built in areas that neighboring states wouldn’t even consider safe for factories or oil refineries,” according to a Texas Tribune article.  
The report was not readily available Tuesday morning.
The group’s report studied benchmarks for “more than 80 different pollutants” that Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Mississippi and Oklahoma use to determine if a site needs to be cleaned-up before use and how much clean-up it would need.
The state cleanup rules states “ground at residential properties should contain no more than 69 milligrams of the carcinogenic petrochemical benzene for every 1 kilogram of soil; Louisiana, meanwhile, only allows 3.1 milligrams of benzene per kilogram of soil — and that’s for sites intended for industrial use,” according to the Texas Tribune. 
The report also looked at how Texas fares compared to federal environmental regulations. “On average, for all chemicals targeted by Texas and the EPA, the strictest Texas benchmarks tolerate soil pollution at a rate nearly 14 times greater than the benchmarks used to score potential Superfund sites and groundwater pollution at a rate nearly 35 times higher,” the Texas Tribune reports.
The lax environmental standards could be dangerous to Texans’ health. According to the Houston Chronicle, environmental groups found plants in the Houston area didn’t shut down during Hurricane Harvey until after Gov. Gregg Abbot declared a state of emergency. That led to significantly more air pollution release in the Houston area than in Corpus Christi, an area also hit hard by Harvey.
The Texas Tribune reports one of the reasons for the disparity between states is because Texas standards assume “Texans are smaller on average than people in other states, that they drink less water, and that children accidentally consume less dirt. As a result we accept greater levels of pollution in our soil and water.”  Texas also accept a cancer risk level of one additional case per 100,000 people (New Mexico has the same standards). Other states surveyed in the study use a rate of one additional case per one million.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality told the Texas Tribune that their standards “are the result of sound science and uniform methods that assess risk at each site using conservative assumptions to be protective of human health and the environment.”

Written by RA News staff.


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