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HOUSTON—In the first year following settlement of a lawsuit filed by NELC attorneys on behalf of Environment Texas and Sierra Club, Pasadena Refining System Inc. (PRSI) has dramatically reduced its unauthorized emissions of harmful air pollutants and paid more than $3 million to start a vehicle emission-reduction fund. But it still has work to do.

In the first annual compliance report required by the NELC consent decree, PRSI detailed emission violations that totaled 8,152 pounds of unauthorized air pollutants in the period from April 2018 to March 2019.

This is a major improvement compared to the annual average of nearly 100,000 pounds of unauthorized emissions in the five years preceding the lawsuit, including a high of 164,742 pounds in 2012. Nonetheless, as required by the consent decree, PRSI must now pay stipulated penalties for this past year’s emission limit violations and must continue to pay penalties for excess emissions until it complies with its emission limits for two consecutive years.

As part of the penalty payment required by the settlement, PRSI also paid $3,175,000 to the Houston-Galveston Area Council for the purpose of establishing a fund to reduce emissions from motor vehicles.

This project aims to improve air quality in nearby Pasadena, Galena Park, and southeastern Harris County by helping municipalities both to replace polluting vehicle fleets with zero- or ultra-low- emission vehicle models, and to establish local infrastructure, such as charging stations, in support of electric vehicles. The transition to fossil fuel-free vehicles will help reduce air pollutants, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds, that have compromised the health of local residents for years.

The settlement also imposes other specific measures to address the significant compliance issues at the Pasadena Refinery. PRSI is now taking steps to maximize the utilization of pollution control equipment, reduce flaring events, respond quickly to community complaints, prepare for hurricane threats, install emission event tracking systems, and implement preventative maintenance plans.

“We brought this lawsuit to address the repeated mechanical breakdowns and operational flaws that plagued the Pasadena Refinery for years and caused illegal releases of pollution into the surrounding neighborhoods,” said NELC Senior Attorney Josh Kratka.

“The facility’s dramatic reductions in emissions over the past year are encouraging, but also show that such violations never should have happened in the first place.”