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Texas plants spend the most in nation to control pollution

Industries in Texas are routinely pounded because they pump out more pollution than almost any other state. But it turns out the state’s oil refineries and chemical plants also spend more money than any other state to control that pollution.

That’s according to a report released Wednesday by the Census Bureau. It found that in 2005 Texas industries spent $1.2 billion to purchase pollution-control equipment and $2.6 billion to operate it, by far the most of any state.

But the Census Bureau notes that the amount companies spent to reduce pollution in Texas and nationwide is less than 1 percent of the industry sector’s total revenue for the year.

Fighting pollution The study

The Census Bureau conducted the “Pollution Abatement Costs and Expenditures Survey” with help from the Environmental Protection Agency. The report is based on responses from more than 20,000 manufacturing plants with 20 employees or more. The study reveals that industries nationwide spent more than $26 billion in 2005 to purchase and operate pollution-control equipment.

What does it mean?

Industry representatives say the report shows they spend a ton of money each year to cut pollution. “We’re pleased that the Census Bureau’s report documents . . . the significant investment our industry has made to decrease our environmental footprint,” said Hector Rivero, president and CEO of the Texas Chemical Council, a trade group. But Ramon Alvarez, a senior scientist with Environmental Defense, notes that the report estimates that the money is only a small percentage of total capital expenditures and revenues. “Many other states forced their industries to clean up years ago. They’re making these expenditures in Texas essentially to catch up,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of the state chapter of Public Citizen in Austin.

Pollution in Texas

Texas ranks No. 3 for total toxic emissions with 238.5 million pounds in 2006, the latest year for which federal statistics are available. Alaska and Ohio hold the top spots. Texas has also come under fire for emissions of greenhouse gases that scientists say contribute to global warming. The state’s power plants, buildings, cars and trucks emit more carbon dioxide than any state. Most of those emissions come from power plants, according to federal statistics.