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Environment & Energy

Is Houston's Air Pollution a Preview for Pennsylvania?

Reid Frazier
Allegheny Front

Apollonia Martinez on her front porch in Manchester, TX, a community next to the Houston Ship Channel, said her sons has asthma attacks from air pollution. Photo: Reid R. Frazier - See more at:

The largest chemical hub in the Americas courses through Houston in a seemingly unending line of plants that produce about a quarter of the country’s petrochemicals.

These plants have helped fuel the city’s economic rise. But they also have added to its poor air quality, with emissions that have been linked to asthma, cancer, and heart attacks.

In recent years, Houston has found ways to reduce air pollution, in part by zeroing in on chemical plant emissions. Experts say Houston’s experience may show others how to keep chemical emissions down, even as the industry expands along the Gulf Coast, and possibly into Pennsylvania.

From Pennsylvania to Texas, the chemical industry is building new plants to take advantage of vast deposits of natural gas opened up by the fracking boom. Shell Chemical is eyeing building an ethane cracker in Monaca in Beaver County. The plant would take ethane from the Marcellus shale and convert it into ethylene ­­-- a key building block for plastics and chemicals --­­ through the ‘cracking’ process.

Read the full story at the website of our partner, The Allegheny Front.