Landmark Settlement Leads to New Solar Power Project in Texas
October 26, 2010
Sierra Club and Environment Texas are celebrating the installation of a solar power project at two south Houston, Texas schools that is the result of the groups’ $6 million April 2009 settlement with Shell Oil Company concerning Clean Air Act violations at the company’s Deer Park Texas Refinery and Chemical plant. The settlement brought about reductions in pollution at the Deer Park plant and established, among other clean air efforts, this $2 million project at Sam Rayburn High School in Pasadena and South High School in South Houston.
As Sierra Club’s Jennifer Powis, said, “[w]e are delighted with this solar power project in the two south Houston schools -- It not only demonstrates the best direction for Texas’ clean energy future, it also provides real benefits to the schools and the young people. The school district is expected to save over $10,000 annually in reduced electricity bills and the students will study and learn how solar power works.”
April 24, 2009
Sierra Club and Environment Texas achieved a major victory for clean air on April 23, 2009, when they reached a settlement with Shell Oil Company and two affiliates that will result in dramatic air pollution reductions at Shell’s Deer Park refinery and chemical plant in Harris County, Texas. The settlement calls for a mandatory 80% reduction in emissions caused by “upset” events: equipment breakdowns, malfunctions, and other non-routine occurrences, within three years (a cut of approximately 750,000 pounds per year compared to recent levels). Additionally, the settlement includes monetary penalties for failures to meet pollution reduction benchmarks, enhanced monitoring, and several plant upgrades to cut overall emissions of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and sulfur dioxide, among others.
Shell has also agreed to pay a $5.8 million civil penalty for its past violations. Sierra Club and Environment Texas believe this is the largest penalty in an environmental citizen suit in Texas history, and nationally one of the largest ever against a single facility. The entire penalty payment will be used to fund environmental, public health and education projects in Harris County, including a project to reduce diesel emissions from school buses.
As Neil Carman, Clean Air Program Director for Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter, said, "[t]his settlement agreement represents a major victory in the fight for clean air on Texas's Gulf Coast. We urge other oil and chemical companies in the region to take note of Shell's willingness to work constructively with us in developing solutions to the problems at the Deer Park facility - problems that are not unique to Shell."
January 7, 2008
On January 7, 2008 the Sierra Club and Environment Texas took legal action in federal district court against Shell Oil Company and several affiliates. The lawsuit – the first case in Texas in which citizen groups are suing to stop illegal air emissions arising from so-called “upset” events – claims that Shell has repeatedly violated the Clean Air Act at its Deer Park, Texas, oil refinery and chemical plant, resulting in the release of millions of pounds of excess air pollutants over the past five years, including toxic chemicals such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene.
Shell’s Deer Park facility is a 1,500-acre complex located on the Houston Ship Channel in Harris County, about 20 miles east of downtown Houston. It is the nation’s eighth-largest oil refinery and one of the world’s largest producers of petrochemicals. The facility is also the second largest source of air pollution in Harris County, which ranks among the worst in the nation in several measures of air quality.
“I live and work downwind from Shell, in Channelview. My family and my employees simply can’t afford to breathe in any more air pollution,” said Sierra Club member and small business owner Karla Land. “We have laws to protect air quality for a reason. Shell is breaking those laws and they need to be made to stop.”
Details and Documents:
Sierra Club and Environment Texas Settlement with Shell Pays off in 700 Solar Panels on Baytown Schools
Sierra Club & Environment Texas Press Release, October 26, 2010
Environmental Groups and Shell Oil Company Propose Landmark Settlement of Clean Air Act Lawsuit
Sierra Club Press Release, April 23, 2009
Short arm of the law: Who gets tough against companies polluting Texas? Hint: It's not the state
May 4, 2009, Houston Chronicle
Shell Sued for Emissions from Refinery
January 7, 2008, by Juan A. Lozano, Business Week
Sierra Club Sues Shell Over Refinery Pollution
January 7, 2008, by Erwin Seba, Reuters
See other "Promoting Clean Energy" cases.