PORTLAND — Cheniere, the largest U.S. exporter of liquefied natural gas, boasts that it’s helping to “improve local air quality in communities globally” because the cleaner burning fuel it ships displaces coal in power plants.
But in the Corpus Christi, Texas region, where the fuel is prepared for shipment, the company is making air quality worse -with the consent of state regulators.
Cheniere’s massive LNG plant, on the outskirts of the Gulf Coast city, has exceeded its permitted limits for emissions of pollutants such as soot, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) hundreds of times since it started up in 2018, according to a Reuters review of regulatory documents.
Instead of levying penalties for such violations, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has responded by granting Cheniere big increases in the plant’s pollution limits, the documents show. The facility is now allowed to chuff out some 353 tons per year of VOCs, double the limit set out in its original permit eight years ago. The state raised limits on four other pollutants by more than more than 40%.
The issue has infuriated nearby residents who cite the frequency of large flares, used to burn off excess gas to relieve pressure, and evidence that local air quality has deteriorated significantly since the facility’s start-up. They have petitioned the state to crack down on the plant’s pollution rather than allowing it to emit more.
Texas regulators have acknowledged the plant’s impact on the local air quality: In its annual enforcement report for fiscal year 2019,…
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