Harris County Attorney Ryan Sues Refinery For Release of Dangerous Chemicals

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan filed suit on Thursday, September 12, against Houston Refining for releasing excessive amounts of dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere earlier this month.

Ryan’s lawsuit asserts that Houston Refining, 1200 Lawndale Street, violated the Texas Clean Air Act, the Texas Water Code, and the Texas Health and Safety Code by emitting air contaminants into the atmosphere without authorization. Each air contaminant, each emission point and each day are separate violations.

The County Attorney is seeking a temporary injunction ordering Houston Refining to comply with state law to ensure there are no future emissions or further violations and a permanent injunction upon completion of a trial.

“We cannot allow industries in Harris County to violate the law and put our residents in danger,” said County Attorney Ryan. “We will hold them accountable.”

On September 3, Houston Refining had a power loss resulting in an emissions event at the facility. The initial emissions event, which occurred over an eight hours period, resulted in the release of over 315,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 3,716 pounds of hydrogen sulfide. The facility’s air permit limits emissions to 1304.29 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 19.67 pounds hydrogen sulfide.

Houston Refining is a part of a family of entities operating under LyondelBasell Industries N.V. Houston Refining owns and operates the petroleum refinery along the Houston Ship Channel. The processes at the refinery generate and emit contaminants including volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and benzene.

According to records from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, since December 11, 2016, the facility has had six emissions events due to power outages.

“If you are going to do business in Harris County, you have a responsibility to ensure that you do no harm to the community,” County Attorney Ryan said. “Every industry must comply with regulations and laws to keep our residents safe.”

Click here to view a copy of the petition. Click here for a photo taken on September 3 showing smoke billowing from Houston Refining at 1200 Lawndale.