Toxic Torts Can Curb Unregulated Industry


Like its namesake in England, the Manchester area of Houston is a hub of industry. It houses the largest petrochemical complex in the United States, and it works night and day to refine oil into gas in response to the quenchless thirst of American automobiles. From its cracking towers and smokestacks benzene and 1-3 butadiene and other known carcinogens leak into the air. It is the sort of scene we imagine happens only in the Third World, as people live in the toxic shadow of unregulated industry.

The Houston area has 20 times more 1-3 butadiene in its air than any other city in the United States, but there is no law that prevents these companies from spewing even more pollutants in the air if they choose to do so. No federal, state, or local laws can stop them from filling the air with lethal levels of toxic fumes. The government is reduced to begging them to reduce their emissions.

The chief toxicologist for the Texas Commission for Environmental quality has concocted just such a plan of systematic begging. The commission has developed an approach of “bringing companies in, telling them what we want.” And, because the oil industry is posting record profits, the industry is complying with the requests, and adding any cost to efficiency or productivity to the cost it passes on to the average consumers.

But even though the petrochemical companies have attempted to occupy the moral high ground with their “voluntary limits” on emissions, the effects of their emissions are clear. People in the neighborhood around the plant suffer from high levels of respiratory disease, and children are 56 percent more likely to suffer from leukemia.

And who are these people? They are the poor, the disenfranchised, often members of minority groups. In all, they are people who feel they have no options or recourse to their environmental peril. But a remedy does exist. If you live in a neighborhood engulfed in the toxic plume of unregulated industry, a class action toxic tort suit can give that industry a little more reason to “voluntarily” reduce its emissions. Contact today to get in touch with a local lawyer who will champion your cause.