In 2009, air quality in Harris County, TX, was among the worst in the nation – particularly for ground-level ozone, commonly known as smog, which can cause a host of serious respiratory problems.  A major contributor was the ongoing release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as ethylene, propylene, and 1,3-butadiene, from industrial facilities in the area.  To tackle this problem, NELC filed suit on behalf of Environment Texas and Sierra Club against the Chevron Phillips Chemical Company’s vast Cedar Bayou Chemical Plant in Baytown, TX.  Our lawsuit alleged that Chevron illegally emitted over one million pounds of ozone-forming air pollution between 2003 and 2009, and we specifically targeted emissions occurring during nonroutine “upset” events such as equipment breakdowns and malfunctions.

In 2010, we reached a settlement with Chevron that compelled the company to reduce emissions from upset events by well over 85% within three years, initiate operational and equipment upgrades and enhanced VOC monitoring to further reduce emissions, and pay $2 million to the Baylor College of Medicine to establish a multi-year environmental health clinic focused on underserved communities along the Houston Ship Channel.