Environmental Texas, Sierra Club sue Pasadena Refining System, Inc. over air pollution

On March 2, 2015, firm client, Sierra Club and Environment Texas filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Pasadena Refining System, Inc. (PRSI) for thousands of persistent violations of the federal Clean Air Act at its Pasadena, Texas, refinery, which is located just east of Houston. PRSI is owned by the state-controlled oil company of Brazil, Petrobras.

Congress gave private citizens and citizen groups the right to enforce the CAA when EPA and the states fail to do so. Here, PRSI has been repeatedly violating its permit limits for numerous air pollutants, year after year, and TCEQ has failed to get them to fix their underlying problems.

Our lawsuit is not to recover damages for individuals, but rather is a public interest lawsuit of the same kind that EPA brings: we’re suing to get a court order requiring PRSI to come into compliance with its permits as quickly as possible, and for civil penalties for its long history of violations. CAA allows courts to impose penalties of up to $93,750 for each day of violation, and here there have been thousands.

The right of private citizens to enforce our federal environmental laws is now under attack in Congress. This lawsuit is a prime example of why citizen suits are so important to ensure that all companies obey the laws of the land, because government simply can’t – or won’t – handle the entire job on its own. We need to be able to hold corporations and the government accountable.

Sierra Club and Environmental Texas are Represented by Philip Hilder and William Graham of Hilder & Associates.