HOUSTON – Exxon’s lawyer demanded that Sierra Club member Marilyn Kingman document for him, while she was sitting on the witness stand in federal court, her most recent experience of air pollution coming from the company’s Baytown Complex.
“Can I use my nose?” Ms. Kingman asked.
Ms. Kingman, who has lived and taught school in the Baytown area since the 1970s, proceeded to describe the powerful chemical odor she encountered one evening the previous week, while visiting an area near the plant.
Sure enough, a check of Texas’s emission event report database showed an unauthorized release of benzene, a human carcinogen, and other air pollutants at that very date and time from the Baytown Complex.
Earlier in the trial, Exxon’s attorneys had demanded the same information from Baytown resident Shae Cottar, who promptly pulled his smart phone out of his pocket and showed Judge
David Hittner a photograph he had taken just a month earlier of a smoking refinery flare that caused him to cut short his family outing at a Baytown nature preserve near the plant.
Mr. Cottar had lived across the street from the Baytown Complex for several years, and played in court the dramatic videos he had taken of smoke billowing from gigantic flare flames in the middle of the night.
Environment Texas member Diane Aguirre and Sierra Club member Sharon Sprayberry each testified about the respiratory problems they experienced growing up and living near the Exxon facility—symptoms that disappear whenever they leave Baytown, and that reappear whenever they return.
Plaintiffs’ public health expert, Dr. Edward Brooks of the University of Texas-San Antonio Health Center, testified at length that the “chemical soup” created by Exxon’s emissions increases the risk of a wide variety of adverse health effects for Baytown residents.