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 hell runnin' an environmentally responsible refinery!!"

The reason we say that is Houston Refining LP, which runs a 700-acre, 286,000-barrel-per-day refinery over on Lawndale in East Houston, just got kicked in the 'nads with a $481,105 fine by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The plant, one of the world's largest that processes heavy, high-sulfur crude oil, was cited for a long list of crimes against Mother Earth, ranging from failure to show their flares were operating with a continuous pilot light (just like your hot water heater!) to the never-ending violation of failing to prevent "unauthorized emissions."

They also didn't repair a lot of component leaks found during "audio visual olfactory inspections," the state regulators said, which just doesn't wash with us cause when you "smell that smell," like Lynyrd Skynyrd said, it's rather unpleasant.

Anyway, these days there's always sort of a silver lining when a petrochemical outfit gets hit with a heavy fine, which we just realized is a relative term given Big Oil's profit margin in recent months.

What happens is the state requires the offending petrochemical entity to send part of its penalty to a "separate environmental project."

In this case, Houston Refining LP (owned by LyondellBassell) will send $96,221 to the Trust for Public Land-Galveston Bay Area Acquisition and Conservation Program, and another $96,221 to the Houston-Galveston AERCO's Clean Cities/Clean Vehicles Program.

So thanks, Houston Refining!

-- Steve Olafson

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