Texas environmentalists sue Houston-area refinery over pollution

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Two Texas environmental groups filed a lawsuit on Thursday under the U.S. Clean Air Act alleging repeated pollution violations by a Houston-area refinery owned by Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras, the organizations said.

Environment Texas and the Sierra Club’s Lone Star chapter filed the suit alleging repeated and ongoing violations of pollution limits by the Pasadena, Texas, refinery operated by Petrobras’ subsidiary Pasadena Refining System Inc (PRSI), the organizations said.

“We think they need to be held accountable for thousands of releases of dangerous pollution into the community,” said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas.

A PRSI spokesman said the refinery complies with governmental regulations.

“Pasadena Refining System Inc is aware of the lawsuit being brought by Environment Texas and Sierra Club, and is currently reviewing the filing,” the company said in an email. “We are committed to complying with all local, state and federal regulations and keeping our team’s focus on safe and reliable operations.”

Metzger said PRSI has asked for a meeting with Environment Texas and the Sierra Club.

The two groups are willing to discuss a settlement with the company, he said.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s joint venture Deer Park, Texas, refinery reached a $5.8 million settlement in 2009 over alleged violations at that plant.

A U.S. District Court judge in Houston is weighing possible penalties that may be paid by Exxon Mobil Corp for alleged violations of pollution regulations at the company’s Baytown, Texas, refining and chemical plant complex.

The groups brought a suit against Exxon over the Baytown complex seven years ago.

Potential penalties for Clean Air Act violations can reach millions of dollars.

The Clean Air Act allows citizens to sue through federal courts to seek enforcement of pollution rules.

Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Phil Berlowitz