Main content area

Understanding Excess Emissions from Industrial Facilities: Evidence from Texas

Zirogiannis, Nikolaos, Hollingsworth, Alex J., Konisky, David M.
Environmental science & technology 2018 v.52 no.5 pp. 2482-2490
emissions, environmental quality, models, pollutants, pollution, Texas
We analyze excess emissions from industrial facilities in Texas using data from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Emissions are characterized as excess if they are beyond a facility’s permitted levels and if they occur during startups, shutdowns, or malfunctions. We provide summary data on both the pollutants most often emitted as excess emissions and the industrial sectors and facilities responsible for those emissions. Excess emissions often represent a substantial share of a facility’s routine (or permitted) emissions. We find that while excess emissions events are frequent, the majority of excess emissions are emitted by the largest events. That is, the sum of emissions in the 96–100th percentile is often several orders of magnitude larger than the remaining excess emissions (i.e., the sum of emissions below the 95th percentile). Thus, the majority of events emit a small amount of pollution relative to the total amount emitted. In addition, a small group of high emitting facilities in the most polluting industrial sectors are responsible for the vast majority of excess emissions. Using an integrated assessment model, we estimate that the health damages in Texas from excess emissions are approximately $150 million annually.