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Environmental Groups Sue Petrobras For Clean Air Act Violations At Pasadena, Texas Refinery

Officials at PRSI have previously said that they are working with agencies to make sure the plant complies with environmental regulations.


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Dave Fehling
Petrobras’s Pasadena Refining System plant is near the Washburn Tunnel on the Houston Ship Channel

(Updated 3:55 P.M.)

Environmental groups today filed a federal lawsuit against an oil refinery in Pasadena, Texas, alleging it has repeatedly violated federal air pollution limits over the past five years.

The Pasadena Refining System (PRSI) is owned by Brazil's state-controlled oil company Petrobras. The Sierra Club and Environment Texas allege the facility has violated the federal Clean Air Act "thousands" of times, releasing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions in levels that violate hourly and yearly limits.

This is the latest issue for the refinery, which has seen a number of problems in recent years.

In March 2016, a fire and explosion injured a worker. Also, as Houston Public Media has previously reported, it's been cited before by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for "unauthorized" releases of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions – the same ones mentioned in the lawsuit.

The groups have been planning to sue since late 2016. Outside the federal courthouse in Houston, Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger said he believes the state isn't doing enough to crack down on polluters.

"We have, unfortunately, a state agency which really is a classic captive regulator that is more interested in helping the polluters, than making sure that they comply with the law and protect public health," he said.

In a separate emailed statement, Metzger said the groups suing "greatly appreciate" the refinery's willingness to meet and discuss ways to address the issue, as they have done before. But, he said the groups feel the company "needs to make a major new commitment to environmental compliance."

Metzger said the environmental groups would be open to a settlement if the refinery agreed to an emissions reduction program, but that they're also willing to take the case to trial.

In an emailed statement, Pasadena Refining System, Inc. said it is aware of the lawsuit and is currently reviewing the filing.

"We are committed to complying with all local, state and federal regulations and keeping our team's focus on safe and reliable operations," the company said.

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