US environmental groups sue Chevron Phillips on pollution claims

19 August 2009 18:26  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Two environmental groups filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in a federal court against Chevron Phillips Chemical, accusing the producer of repeated violations of the US Clean Air Act at its Cedar Bayou chemical plant in Baytown, Texas.

The suit, filed by the Sierra Club and Environment Texas groups, accused the facility of releasing more than 1m lbs (450 tonnes) of excess air pollutants since 2003, including toxic chemicals benzene and 1,3-butadiene.

The groups said they wanted a court order requiring Chevron to end its Clean Air Act violations, while making the company subject to civil penalties of $32,500 (€23,075) or more per day for each violation.

“Like many companies in Texas, Chevron Phillips has repeatedly violated its own permit limits by emitting a wide range of harmful pollutants into the air from the Cedar Bayou plant,” said Luke Metzger, executive director with Environment Texas.

“Because the state of Texas has failed to stop such violations at Cedar Bayou and elsewhere, citizen groups have had to step up and enforce the law themselves,” he added.

In addition to the release of benzene and 1,3-butadiene, the suit also cited more than 300,000 lb of unauthorised emissions of carbon monoxide since 2003.

However, Chevron said the emissions events included incidents occurring in connection with Hurricanes Ike and Rita, as well as power outages and other factors outside of the company’s control.

“Chevron Phillips Chemical is committed to operating in accordance with all federal and state regulations,” spokesman Brian Cain said in a statement. “Since 2001, the Cedar Bayou plant has reduced its total reportable emission events by more than 73% and its total annual emissions by 63%.”

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a $5.8m settlement the two groups reached with Shell earlier this year over alleged Clean Air Act violations at the company’s site in Deer Park, Texas. Shell also agreed to extensive emission reductions and facility upgrades.

That settlement is believed to be the largest in an environmental citizen lawsuit in Texas history, and nationally one of the largest ever against a single facility, the groups said.

The groups said they expect to meet with Chevron in the near future to discuss a resolution of their latest claims.

Production at Chevron’s Cedar Bayou facility includes ethylene, propylene, polyethylene (PE), carbon black and acetylene, according to ICIS plants and projects.

($1 = €0.71)

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By: Ben DuBose
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