Sunoco -- Doing Whatever It Takes In La Porte

We have little understanding of how a local chemical manufacturing plant can flaunt state environmental regulations for an entire year and not get called on the carpet for it until nearly two years later, but that describes the goings-on at the Sunoco, Inc., plant in La Porte.

At its facility just off the Pasadena Highway, not far from the San Jacinto Monument, Sunoco makes high-quality polypropylene that's used to make synthetic fibers for everything from diapers and carpets to upholstery and syringes.

To do this requires the use of all kinds of substances not necessarily good for humans, so the state requires Sunoco and other chemical companies to keep records, which sooner or later are reviewed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Sunoco's review came Feb. 5.

The news wasn't good for us or Sunoco, whose Web site states the Philadelphia-based company to be "responsible stewards of the environment by operating in a manner that protects the Earth."

Well, in LaPorte, a bona fide place on Earth, it turns out Sunoco had not accurately reported its emissions of volatile organic compounds for the entire calendar year of 2007.

There were other problems. Since June 2008, for example, emissions of volatile organic compounds from a portion of the Sunoco plant was measured at 11.2 pounds per hour and 45.2 tons per year when it was only permitted emissions of 0.35 pounds per hour and 1.56 tons per year.

Emissions of hexane were 6.2 pounds per hour even though only 0.21 pounds per hour were permitted.

Hair Balls could go further with more details, but we're getting a headache.

For its excessive air emissions and inadequate record-keeping, Sunoco agreed to pay $123,220 in penalties under an agreed order that was approved Wednesday by the TCEQ board in Austin.

Even so, Sunoco made sure the agreed order made note the company denied all the allegations against it. And for agreeing to an expeditious settling of the unpleasantness, the state agreed to let Sunoco keep $30,805 of the original proposed penalty.

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