Environmental activists filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Shell Oil on behalf of citizens, saying state and federal environmental officials failed to enforce the Clean Air Act at the company’s Deer Park plant.
Environment Texas Citizen Lobby and the Sierra Club claim Shell and several of its subsidiaries have released millions of pounds of excess air pollutants along the Houston Ship Channel over the past five years, including benzene and other toxins that can cause cancer and respiratory problems.
During a news conference, group leaders accused the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of not stopping the violations.
“On average, more than once a week, Shell Oil Co. has self-reported that it violated its permit limits and released millions of pounds of chemicals and harmful pollutants into the air around the Houston Ship Channel,” said Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas. “Already, Shell Oil is authorized to emit staggering amounts of pollutants into the air, and with Houston’s air as bad as it is, it is simply unforgivable for them to exceed those permits.”
In a statement, Shell said it was reviewing the allegations and could not comment on specifics of the lawsuit. But the company acknowledged a December meeting with lawyers representing the environmental groups.
“Shell Deer Park refining and chemical share the goal of the Sierra Club and Environment Texas to improve air quality,” the statement said. “We are committed to an ongoing dialogue with them to discuss their concerns, our operations and the steps we are taking to further reduce emissions.”
The oil giant said it has a record of “continuous improvement in environmental performance achieved through significant investment in emission reduction projects and heightened employee focus on preventing operational incidents.”