HOUSTON (Reuters) - Two environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against Chevron Phillips Chemical Co LP over alleged violations of the U.S. Clean Air Act at its Cedar Bayou plant, located east of Houston, representatives of the groups said on Wednesday.
The Sierra Club and Environment Texas allege the 50-50 petrochemical joint-venture between energy giants Chevron Corp and ConocoPhillips repeatedly violated limits for pollution set in operating permits issued by regulators for the plant.
The groups brought the lawsuit because state regulators have failed to enforce limits, said Luke Metzger, executive director of 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,” Metzger said.
The federal Clean Air Act allows citizens to bring lawsuits to enforce the act.
A Chevron Phillips spokesman said the company has reduced pollution at the plant.
“Since 2001, the Cedar Bayou Plant has reduced its total reportable emission events by more than 73 percent and its total annual emissions by 63 percent,” said company spokesman Brian Cain.
The lawsuit alleges that thousands of violations occurred during malfunctions at the plant in the past five years.
About 50 percent of the releases from the plant since June 2004 have come from shutdowns due to Hurricanes Rita and Ike and an electrical power outage caused by an outside supplier, Cain said.
The groups are discussing a possible settlement with the company, Metzger said.
The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas in Houston. It seeks an end to excessive pollution from the plant and civil penalties of up to $32,500 per day for each violation of the Clean Air Act.
Shell Oil Co, the U.S. unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, agreed in April to settle a similar lawsuit by improving operations at its joint-venture Deer Park, Texas, refinery, paying $6 million to reduce pollution from school buses and placing solar panels on public buildings.