In March 2019, a fire ignited at the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) in the Houston area. Due to the size and the chemicals involved, the fire was difficult to extinguish and burned for several days. The fire produced harmful air pollution, groundwater and surface water contamination, and millions of gallons of hazardous waste. This fire and other fires at similar facilities underscore the insufficiency of state safety measures to protect public health and safety, groundwater and surface water, and the environment.
Texas has a long list of rules on the books for chemical storage tanks, including requiring specific construction standards and plans to prevent spills, but they only apply to below-ground tanks and are aimed at preventing contamination of underground aquifers. Above-ground storage tanks are exempt.
Few state rules apply to the tanks, and none require construction standards that ensure tanks can withstand powerful hurricanes or major flooding.
Senate Bill 900 requires the TCEQ to establish new performance standards for large, above-ground storage tanks (called “vessels” in the bill) aimed at protecting ground and surface water in the event of an accident or natural disaster.
For example, the tanks will be required to have remote shut-off valves, overflow protection and anti-fire technology. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will be charged with establishing a Performance Standards for Safety at Storage Vessels Program to provide for the protection of groundwater and surface water resources from a release of substances. TCEQ will provide performance standards for above-ground tanks, including specific standards for those in areas prone to flood, storm surges, and hurricanes.
We thank Senator Alvarado for her leadership in crafting this legislation that is vital to the protection of Houstonians, and Chairman Paddie for helping guide the legislation through the Texas House.