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TCEQ imposes penalty on Oxbow for not meeting sulfur dioxide air quality standard

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has imposed a $39,000 penalty on Oxbow Calcining, 3901 Coke Dock Road, in Port Arthur for failing to comply with ambient air quality standards for sulfur dioxide.

In an enforcement matter published Wednesday, TCEQ said the penalty stems from violations on Jan. 10, 2017; Feb. 11, 2017; March 7, 2017; April 2, 2017; May 3, 2017; and May 26, 2017.

Oxbow Carbon describes itself on its website as one of the world’s largest recyclers of refinery and natural gas byproducts.

“Oxbow upgrades, handles, transports and sells petroleum coke and sulphur into markets where they can be used to produce aluminum, steel, electric power, fertilizer, cement and other critical products for the world economy,” the company says.

TCEQ says that in a document review done in October 2018, an investigator determined the company failed to comply with an air quality standard for sulfur dioxide. The investigator found that, “Human health or the environment has been exposed to significant amounts of pollutants which do not exceed levels are protective of human health of environmental receptors as a result of the violation.”

The violation base for the penalty was $60,000 but was reduced by $15,000 for good faith efforts at compliance. The company also completed a corrective action by June 25, 2018, before a notice of enforcement.

As part of an agreement, Oxbow will contribute $15,600 to the West Port Arthur Home Energy Efficiency Program’s Lighthouse Program, through which a contractor will be hired to inspect homes in low-income neighborhoods to determine if they are eligible for weatherization and energy-efficiency upgrades.

The Lighthouse Program Project was initiated about 17 years ago. Inspected homes must meet some building standards, which include having adequate roofs and foundations, and the owners must have an eligible low-income level.

Pamela Lewis, who oversees the Lighthouse Program, has said it is funded solely by money generated through environmental penalties. She said the program has funded weatherization work on more than 200 homes over the years.

Chambers County

In a second case revealed Wednesday, TCEQ imposed a $55,848 penalty on Phillips 66 Co., 9500 Farm-to-Market Road 1942 in Mont Belvieu in neighboring Chambers County.

Allegations were that the company failed to sample and analyze sulfur content in ethane fuel used as a backup fuel in 2012-2015.

As part of an agreement between TCEQ and Phillips 66, the company will donate $22,339 to Anahuac Independent School District to purchase a school bus, model 2010 or newer, with lower emissions to replace an older bus used by the system.

The agreement, TCEQ said, would benefit air quality by “reducing harmful exhaust emissions.”