PORT ARTHUR, Texas — Members of the Port Arthur community were happy to hear about changes coming to an area plant that they believe has been dumping cancerous and illegal emissions for years.
Chevron Phillips Chemical company reached a new settlement with the Environmental Protection agency. The settlement comes after the company was found to have violated the Clean Air Act at three of its chemical plants in Texas.
As a part of the agreement, Chevron has to pay around $121.4 million on upgrades and procedures aimed at cutting down the amount of harmful emissions at the plants. One of the plants listed in the settlement is in Port Arthur.
Port Arthur residents believe the EPA should have cracked down on harmful emissions and flaring going on at the Chevron Phillips Chemical Plant a long time ago.
“This is something that has needed to be done for a long time now, and we're happy to see now that the EPA is doing their job," Hilton Kelley, founder and director of the Community in-Power and Development Association in Port Arthur, said.
Kelley believes the pollutants and gases released by plants on the city’s west side have been detrimental to people’s health. He said the Chevron Phillips Chemical Plant is one of the main culprits.
"They've had numerous fires,” Kelley said. “They've been doing flaring. Sometimes they flare for days."
Kelley said he annually files at least 10 complaints with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality concerning the flaring and emissions.
Kelley believes the new agreement reached by Chevron and the EPA is a step in the right direction, however, he wants the company to go the extra mile.
“They've known for years that they have been dumping illegal emissions,” Kelley said. “They know they've been dumping toxins that contribute to cancer, respiratory issues and what have you.”
Officials with Chevron responded with a quote saying in part that the company, “strives to ensure compliance, especially regarding flaring, and we are fully committed to environmental stewardship.”
The company will also be required to limit the flow of gas at selected flares and closely monitor the presence of benzene at the Port Arthur plant.
Health officials are happy to hear about the new requirements. They said emissions from the plant have had negative consequences on the health of Southeast Texans.
"These emissions that are put in the air really affect, it causes them to have inflammation in their airways, in their lungs,” Babette Parthum, director of respiratory and sleep lab at the Medical Center of Southeast Texas, said. “It causes increased respiratory infections. It really compromises their pulmonary function.”
As a part of the new agreement, the company must also publicly post air quality information at all three plants.