Texas attorney general takes over Valero emissions lawsuit

Source: By Marissa Luck, Houston Chronicle • Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The suit comes two months after the San Antonio-based company was sent a notice-of-intent-to-sue letterfrom three environmental groups: the Port Arthur Community Action Network, Environment Texas and the Sierra Club (E&E News PM, May 22).

The Clean Air Act allows citizens to file lawsuits against companies who have violated regulations but requires them to send a warning letter 60 days in advance. This step is intended to prompt government organizations to step in and take over the proceedings, which the attorney general’s office did two days before the end of the waiting period. The three groups previously planning to sue will now drop their planned case.

The new lawsuit accuses the Port Arthur refinery of releasing 1.8 million pounds of air-polluting compounds over the last five years, the Houston Chroniclereported, including sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen oxides, and other particulate matter and air pollutants. The alleged Clean Air Act violations total more than 600 in number.

Though the attorney general’s office will now be responsible for prosecuting the refinery, no suit was filed when the case was initially referred to the office in June 2018 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The investigation that ultimately prompted the suit was conducted after a tank fire at the facility caused a surge of emissions in 2017.

Valero did not respond to requests for comment from the Chroniclewhen the May 22 notice-of-intent-to-sue letter was initially filed but told the paper that the Port Arthur refinery has improved 72% in terms of emissions output over the past 17 years.

“For several years, the refinery has been plagued with continuing problems associated with operator errors and equipment malfunctions resulting in emissions events that emit unauthorized air contaminants into the environment,” the attorney general’s office wrote in the filing. The suit was filed on behalf of the TCEQ