Steve Olafson

  • News

    July 23, 2009
  • Blogs

    March 25, 2009

    Some Thoughts On The Chronicle Cuts: So Long, Suburbs

    (Note: For a while, this item was posted with the wrong byline -- it's by Steve Olafson, not Richard Connelly, and always has been. Thanks, and sorry.)The layoffs at the Houston Chronicle cut much deeper into the editorial side of the newspaper than the announced company-wide 12 percent reduction th ... More >>

  • Blogs

    February 12, 2009

    Valero Gets Fined For A Damn Impressive Bit Of Polluting

    If you've ever pondered how much pollution an oil refinery can spew out in 4,008 hours and 50 minutes when the gasoline-making process goes wrong, Valero Refining in Texas City has provided an answer: -- 345,624 pounds of sulfur dioxide-- 3,752.30 pounds of hydrogen sulfide-- 63.30 pounds of of ... More >>

  • Blogs

    February 11, 2009

    Pearland Gets The State's Newest Superfund Site! Take That, Pasadena!

    There's an ugly mess of chemicals in the groundwater on the south side of Pearland. The contamination is severe enough that the abandoned tank farm has become the latest addition to the state's Superfund Registry.This is no surprise to nearby residents, some of whom are being given bottled water bec ... More >>

  • Blogs

    January 29, 2009

    Oldies, And Not Goodies, On The Pollution Front

    The wheels of environmental justice move ever so slowly. To call it a snail's pace would be an insult to mollusks everywhere. But it is what is, as we say in the parlance of our times, so now we have the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality assessing penalties against two local polluters for ... More >>

  • Blogs

    January 19, 2009

    Some Overnight Fun At Shell's Deer Park Plant

    The problem with oil refineries, from a purely layman's point of view, is they're full of valves and fittings and all manner of other hardware that seem to leak after a certain amount of wear and tear.And so it was at the Shell plant in Deer Park beginning at 1:44 a.m. yesterday -- Sunday, December ... More >>

  • Blogs

    December 11, 2008

    The "Golden" Triangle -- Pay No Attention To the Tons Of Pollutants

    In calculating the latest pollution fine levied against BASF Fina Petrochemicals LP in Jefferson County, state regulators made a note that might make residents of "The Golden Triangle" reconsider the nickname for their home.The Beaumont-Port Arthur area, documents say, has been exposed to 11.4 tons ... More >>

  • Blogs

    November 20, 2008

    Shell Oil Finally Gets Fined For What It Puts Into Deer Park's Air

    It took awhile, but state environmental regulators and Shell Oil finally came to meeting of the minds about a slew of pollution violations committed at the Deer Park refinery. Upshot: Shell will pay a $345,744 penalty for 35 emissions events and record-keeping violations that occurred from 2004 to ... More >>

  • Blogs

    November 6, 2008

    Formosa Plant Keeps On Polluting

    The pollution record of a Taiwanese company's largest polyvinyl chloride plant in the U.S. just got worse. The Formosa Plastics Corp. facility in Point Comfort, Texas, yesterday was fined $121,443 by state regulators for numerous air violations and unauthorized emissions in 2005 and 2006. It's the ... More >>

  • Blogs

    November 3, 2008

    I Voted For McCain And All I Got Was This Cheap Plunger

    A serious election calls for serious measures.Whether a large purchase of toilet plungers qualifies as serious is debatable, but it got our attention. Steve Radack, the pugnacious Republican county commissioner in the County of Harris, will pass out 1,000 toilet plungers to rally the conservative vo ... More >>

  • Blogs

    October 23, 2008

    The Pollution Hits Keep Coming

    At first blush, one would think that the $541,450 fine levied yesterday against Enterprise Products Operating LLC would freak out any cost-conscious CEO. But then you realize the Houston-based company, whose refinery in Mont Belvieu incurred the fine for air quality violations this year, reported a ... More >>

  • Blogs

    October 16, 2008

    Texas' Own Joe The Plumber

    If you watched last night's presidential debate, you know who the star was -- Joe The Plumber. He's a fellow in Ohio who's worried about taxes. His name was invoked no less than 15 times by Republican nominee John McCain, who is using him as sort of an Everyman in the discussion over Barack Obama's ... More >>

  • Blogs

    October 8, 2008
  • Blogs

    October 6, 2008

    Changes At the Chron

    The Houston Chronicle, in the midst of a 5-6 percent cutback, is reshuffling its opinion section after Opinion Director James Gibbons decided to take the paper's buyout offer. Taking his place will be John Wilburn, the newspaper's managing editor. Meanwhile, the Chron's reader representative, Stev ... More >>

  • Blogs

    September 18, 2008

    Let The Polluting Begin Anew!

    You still may not have electricity, ice, Internet access or Starbucks access, but the petrochemical plants of Southeast Texas are slowly cranking up again after the bastard Ike came and left. Frankly, it's an awesome undertaking starting everything up again. The process will continue, in some cases ... More >>

  • Blogs

    September 10, 2008

    Ike Brings On The Pollution

    Hurricane Ike still may miss the petrochemical heart of the upper Texas Coast, but it's already taking a toll around here, both in lost product and environmental-wise. Four plants near Houston have begun shutdown procedures, so the flares will be burning over the next several days and nights, and m ... More >>

  • Blogs

    September 8, 2008

    The Hits Keep Coming From The BP Refinery

    Fresh on the heels of our post last Friday about British Petroleum facing a potential of $650,000 penalty for illegally dumping hazardous crap into the earth, the company has informed the state of four more "emissions events." Last night for about two hours, BP's refinery released an estimated 2,72 ... More >>

  • Blogs

    August 29, 2008

    Hurricane Gustav -- Already A Disaster

    It's officially a disaster! The TV weathercasters always get rapped for over-hyping approaching hurricanes, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry is not shy about jumping the gun. From Austin, he's already declared the counties of Harris, Bexar, Brazoria, Brazos, Calhoun, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grime ... More >>

  • Blogs

    August 18, 2008

    More Women Complain Of Being Harassed By Brazoria Judge

    The list of women who say they've been subjected to the unwanted sexual advances of Brazoria County Judge James Blackstock is getting longer. Brazoria County Clerk Joyce Hudman and two other women have told District Attorney Jeri Yenne they too were groped and kissed by Blackstock, who was indefini ... More >>

  • Blogs

    August 15, 2008

    Former TV News Stuntman Now A Chicago Anchor

    If you were in Houston a dozen or so years ago and watched Channel 2 News, you might remember Rob Johnson. He was the reporter who submitted himself to any manner of peril for your TV enjoyment, including plunging himself via car into a bayou to demonstrate how to properly extricate one's self from ... More >>

  • Blogs

    August 15, 2008

    The Bright Side Of Pollution

    If Marvin Zindler came back to life on TV and covered the Houston refinery scene instead of rats and roaches in restaurants, he might be tempted to bellow, "It's hell to run an environmentally responsible refinery!" But Marvin, sadly, ain't coming back, so we'll say something similar, "It must be h ... More >>

  • Blogs

    August 12, 2008

    Clinton Didn't Take Sheila Jackson Lee's Advice

    In its just-released dissection of Hillary Clinton's failed presidential campaign, The Atlantic magazine notes that Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee urged the candidate to play the gender card following the much-admired speech on race relations by Barack Obama. The time frame was last March ... More >>

  • Blogs

    August 7, 2008

    Paul McCartney Stuns Oklahoma City

    If you get your kicks on Route 66, you'll eventually wind up in Oklahoma City, which is where freshly divorced Paul McCartney found himself a couple days ago on his sentimental road trip through the American heartland. McCartney, who's official title is "Sir" in the British Empire, had dinner in th ... More >>

  • Blogs

    August 1, 2008

    Port Arthur Shares The Polluting Load

    Complain if you like of the pollution emanating from industries that line the Houston Ship Channel, but this week a petrochemical manufacturing plant in Port Arthur stakes its claim as one of the state's top-dog environmental scofflaws. BASF FINA Petrochemical Limited Partnerships has gotten whacke ... More >>

  • Blogs

    July 30, 2008

    No Saggy In Baytown

    The propriety of young men wearing baggy pants down to the middle of their buttocks has reached the halls of government in Baytown, the refinery town 30 miles east of Houston, where the City Council has been asked by a local radio personality with KWWJ-AM ("Keep Walking With Jesus") to put a stop to ... More >>

  • Blogs

    July 25, 2008

    Tough Times At The Gas Station

    At the Downtown Tiger Mart on Fannin, just below the I-45 overpass that carries motorists by the Houston skyline, manager Ali Badruddin has just about had it. On Friday, the state served notice to shut down his retail gas business in 30 days due to a laundry list of technical violations related to ... More >>

  • Blogs

    July 23, 2008

    Cartoons Will Stop Refinery Disasters

    It turns out cartoons can be educational in the petrochemical oil patch, where telephone book-size safety reports can put a guy in a hardhat to sleep. The independent federal agency that looks into industrial chemical accidents says its computer-animated safety videos are a hot item for plant offic ... More >>

  • Blogs

    July 22, 2008

    Brazoria County -- Come for the Beaches (Maybe)

    Who needs Miami Beach? With high gas prices, you can just putter down to the beaches of Brazoria County and save a wad on gas. That's the sales pitch from tourism officials in the county directly south of Houston. As proof that Brazoria County hoteliers are profiting from gas-conscious tourists, ... More >>

  • News

    March 29, 2007

    Houston Astros, Netflix, Congressman Ron Paul

    It could be a year of despair for Astros fans

  • News

    August 15, 2002

    Bashing Bush

    The Chronicle's film critic doubles as a pinko commie naysayer

  • News

    August 8, 2002

    Banjo Blues

    A Chronicle writer gets canned for running a Web site

  • News

    April 27, 1995