Planned anhydrous ammonia unit in Texas City draws attention

Houston Chronicle
Nick Powell

Roy Lee Cannon stands on the deck of his shrimp boat docked at Eagle Point Fishing Camp during the golden hour of a summer evening, his whippet-thin, sun-tanned frame slouched against the boat's fish hold. He looks out on Galveston Bay, his office for the last 44 years.

The Houston Chronicle reports it's the end of a long work day for Cannon, a shift that began before sunrise. The early-morning hours are harder for Cannon, who has a titanium plate in his arm from an accident and a pig valve in his chest, but this time of day is undoubtedly the most productive. On a good day, Cannon will haul in 600 pounds of shrimp, though his yield steadily has decreased as the bay and ship channel have become a highway of commerce for the oil and chemical industries.

"The ship channel is kind of a strange place because shrimp fall into it, but it's not the same," Cannon said. "It's nice on those days when you can just run out there, throw (the net) over and just do good."

As the ship channel has been widened to allow for more boat traffic and chemical plants have been constructed, which in turn have discharged millions of pounds of toxic runoff, Cannon has watched over four decades as the Galveston Bay has been transformed from a jewel of recreation and commerce into what one Texas environmental group calls "a potion of pollution."

So, when Cannon heard an $800 million anhydrous ammonia plant was in the works for the shores of Texas City, he decided that another potential bay polluter should not proceed without protest.

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