Energy & Environment

Harris County Sues Exxon Mobil Just A Day After A Fire Broke Out At The Company’s Baytown Refinery

In a complaint filed Thursday morning, Harris County accuses Exxon Mobil of “unauthorized emissions into the atmosphere,” saying multiple air pollutants including “propylene, LPG, propane, and associated products of combustion” were released.

Screenshot of KHOU’s livestream of the fire at Exxon Mobil’s Baytown refinery.

Harris County and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have filed a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil for allegedly violating the Texas Clean Air Act and Texas Water Code, during a fire that broke out at the company’s oil refinery in Baytown this week .

The fire started Wednesday morning around 11 a.m., sending smoke into the air and injuring 37 people. The unit that caught fire at the company’s Olefins plant processed light hydrocarbons, including propane and propylene.

In a complaint filed Thursday morning, Harris County attorneys accuse Exxon Mobil of “unauthorized emissions into the atmosphere,” saying multiple air pollutants including “propylene, LPG, propane, and associated products of combustion” were released.

The county wants a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction ordering the petrochemical giant to comply with the Texas Clean Air Act, Texas Water Code and Texas Administrative Code.

Exxon Mobil tweeted Wednesday morning that the fire had been extinguished, and that the Baytown complex is operating at a reduced level, while the “impacted unit has been shut down and stabilized.”

Exxon Mobil said they are continuing to investigate the cause of the fire, and that air monitoring continues to show normal levels in the area.

The company also highlighted their “environmental performance”:

“Since 2005, ExxonMobil has spent nearly $1 billion on the Baytown complex to improve environmental performance. We have reduced total emissions by more than 29 percent and improved our air incident performance, including those that contribute to hydrocarbon flaring, by 76 percent.”

In 2017, U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston ruled against Exxon-Mobil in a pollution lawsuit filed by environmentalists, ordering the company to pay nearly $20 million for violating the Clean Air Act at its Baytown facility. 

View a copy of the lawsuit filed in District Court 190, below:

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