Houston, TX – On July 7, NELC attorneys announced that they intend to sue ExxonMobil Corporation in federal court for thousands of violations of the federal Clean Air Act at its Baytown refinery and chemical plant complex. The suit would be the third case filed by NELC since 2008 to stop illegal air emissions at facilities along the Houston Ship Channel.
“This is the largest refinery in the country, and it should be setting an example of responsible environmental citizenship.” JOSH KRATKA, NELC
ExxonMobil’s air emissions are governed by controversial “flexible permits” issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which have been criticized by U.S. EPA as being too lenient. In two separate notices sent to the company, NELC alleges that persistent “upsets” at the complex-equipment breakdowns and other malfunctions-have resulted in the release of more than ten million pounds of illegal pollution over and above the amounts already allowed by these lax permits.
Pollutants released from the ExxonMobil complex include:
- benzene and 1,3-butadiene, which are known to cause cancer;
- sulfur dioxide, which causes respiratory problems and acid rain; and
- volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide, which contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, or smog.
The NELC notices detail hundreds of additional violations, such as improper operation of flares, monitoring failures, and missing or improperly operated equipment.
When state and federal environmental agencies fail to stop companies from violating the law, the Clean Air Act allows private citizens to file an enforcement suit after providing 60 days notice to the violator and the agencies. The notices to ExxonMobil were sent on behalf of Environment Texas and Sierra Club.
“The State of Texas has not only bestowed overly generous emission limits on Exxon’s Baytown refinery and chemical plants, it has compounded the problem by failing to effectively enforce even those weak limits,” explained NELC Senior Attorney Josh Kratka. “This is the largest refinery in the country, and it should be setting an example of responsible environmental citizenship.”