By Alex Stuckey
Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency administrator, speaks during CERWeek by IHS Markit Thursday, March 9, 2017, in Houston. ( Melissa Phillip / Houston Chronicle )
HOUSTON — About a dozen advocates called on Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt to take a “Toxic Tour” of contaminated areas in Houston during his visit Thursday for a planned speech at an oil and gas meeting in The Woodlands.
The protest over Pruitt’s planned speech to the Texas Oil and Gas Association’s annual meeting was held about 40 miles away, on Brady’s Landing, to prove a point: Pruitt should be there, where all the pollution is, instead of speaking to an industry event, advocates said.
“This is where the administrator of the EPA should be coming, especially in light of the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey,” said Rosanne Barone, program director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment.
More than 4 million pounds of toxic airborne emissions, as well as contaminated floodwater from Harvey poured into the Houston area — a region that’s already fraught with problems.
The communities near Brady’s Landing, for example, are constantly inundated with toxic chemicals released into the air by oil refineries, said Juan Parras, with the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.
“It’s an invisible flood” of carcinogens, Parras said. He said he believes the EPA is pro-industry and that officials don’t appear to be working to reduce the level of emissions.
Though the group is not protesting outside of Pruitt’s speech in The Woodlands Thursday night, they said they hope he hears their message and will take a tour of their neighborhoods.
And that tour, lucky for him, would be free, said Rev. James Caldwell with the Coalition of Community Organizations.
Pruitt has been scheduled to speak Thursday night at the TOGA Lone Star Energy Forum in The Woodlands. The speech initially was closed to the media.
As of Thursday morning, however, Pruitt’s name had been removed from the list of speakers during the Distinguished Service Awards dinner.
The association and the EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Alex Stuckey covers science and the environment for the Houston Chronicle. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.com/alexdstuckey.
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