The Dow Chemical Co. got whacked last week with a $202,325 fine for air pollution violations, but if we had to guess, we'd say the world's second-largest chemical company thanks its lucky stars it does business in a state like Texas, where a history of violations doesn't mean much.
In calculating the various wrongs Dow committed in 2007 and 2008, the staff of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality pulled out their calculators and determined the penalty should (or maybe "could," we suppose) be enhanced 418 percent.
Because Dow's megacomplex in Freeport had received written notices of violations for 61 similar violations, plus 28 notices of unrelated violations. Moreover, Dow had agreed to four previous orders of violations with denial of liability and three previous agreed orders of violations without denial of liability dating back to 2003.
Sounds pretty damn serious.
But it essentially means nothing because in Texas, past instances of violations are ignored by the state environmental commission, even though they tote them up on their penalty calculation worksheet.
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As a result, in the most recent case against Dow, finalized last week in Austin, all those enhanced penalties that might have amounted to a fine of more than $630,000 suddenly becomes a much lesser fine of $202,325.
In the verbiage of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, all the mathematical gyrations that result in a $630K fine changing into a $202K fine come under the heading of "statutory limit adjustment."
But you know what the really weird thing is, in our view?
We haven't heard a peep about changing the way things are done during the current legislative circus in Austin, where our elected officials are still trying to figure out how many forms of identification should be required for a citizen to vote.