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Harris County Sues Exxon After Baytown Refinery Fire

Harris County, Texas, is suing ExxonMobil for violating the Texas Clean Air Act and Texas Water Code, after a fire occurred at the Baytown refinery in the middle of the week, leading to an order for shelter in place in the nearest areas.

Earlier this week, ExxonMobil’s oil refinery in Baytown erupted in fire, sparking a shelter in place order for the area early on Wednesday.

Later on Wednesday, the shelter in place was lifted, and “air monitoring has NOT detected any levels of concern,” the City of Baytown said on Twitter. 

Exxon said early on Thursday that the fire that had started at the Baytown Olefins plant on Wednesday was extinguished and all workers who received medical evaluation or first aid were cleared to return to work.

The impacted olefins unit has been shut down and stabilized, while the rest of the Baytown complex, including the refinery, is operating at reduced rates, Exxon said, adding that an investigation is under way to determine the cause of the fire.  

The refinery is capable of processing almost 600,000 barrels of crude per day, and is located along the Houston Ship Channel which is the largest energy port in the United States. The Olefins plant is one of the largest ethylene plants in the world. Its newest cracker at Baytown Olefins can process 1.5 million tons per year, according to its website.

In its lawsuit against Exxon, Harris County is seeking a temporary restraining order and a temporary injunction ordering Exxon to comply with the Texas Clean Air Act, the Texas Water Code, and the Texas Administrative Code. Harris County says that Exxon emitted air pollutants into the atmosphere without authorization and violated provisions of the Texas Water and Texas Administrative Code by failing to comply with all rules, regulations, and orders of the Commission.

Exxon is “currently reviewing” the lawsuit brought by Harris County, Exxon’s spokeswoman Sarah Nordin said in an email to CNN.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • BRADLEY MCWILLIAMS on August 02 2019 said:
    I can understand after some review and investigation, that if it were some sort of gross negligence causing the fire to sue. But to jump right in with suit when the fire trucks haven't even made it back to the station seems a bit much. Seems to be adding insult to injury if it were truly an accidental situation.

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