Harris County files lawsuit against Houston Refining for releasing dangerous chemicals in air


HOUSTON – Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has filed a lawsuit against Houston Refining, accusing it of releasing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere earlier in September. 

The lawsuit claims Houston Refining, located at 1200 Lawndale St., violated the Texas Clean Air Act, the Texas Water Code and the Texas Health and Safety Code when it released dangerous chemicals into the air without authorization. 

According to the lawsuit, on Sept. 3, Houston Refining lost its power, resulting in an emissions event for eight hours at the facility. The lawsuit claims within that eight-hour period, 315,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 3,716 pounds of hydrogen sulfide were released. The facility's current air permit limits emissions to 1,304.29 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 19.67 pounds hydrogen sulfide.

The lawsuit states each air contaminant, each emission point and each day will be counted as a separate violation. 

The county seeks a temporary injunction that will order Houston Refining to comply with state law to ensure that there are no further violations being made by the company. 

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

About Houston Refining:

- The company's parent company operates under LyondelBasell Industries N.V. 

- The company owns and operates a petroleum refinery along the Houston Ship Channel. 

- The refinery generates and emits contaminants such as volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and benzene. 

Houston Refining past with air quality concerns: 

Since Dec. 11, 2016, the facility has had at least six emission events due to power outages, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. 

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

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