Shell Oil Co. along with several of its affiliates, has been sued by environmental groups on claims that oil giant has released pollutants from its suburban Houston refinery that are well above state and federal limits for several years. In their federal lawsuit, the groups claim the excess air pollutants, including toxic chemicals benzene and 1,3-butadiene, are a violation of the federal Clean Air Act. An analysis by the environmental groups of Shell's reports show that since 2003, more than 2 million pounds of sulfur dioxide, more than 600,000 pounds of carbon monoxide, more than 250,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides, more than 90,000 pounds of benzene and more than 60,000 pounds of 1,3-butadiene have been released at the refinery.
The groups are also of the opinion that governmental agencies responsible for monitoring Shell Oil; the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have failed to bring the refinery into compliance.
The lawsuit alleges that at a rate averaging more than once per week starting in 2003, the refinery has had unauthorized emissions releases due to equipment breakdowns or unscheduled maintenance that have exceeded hourly and annual limits on pollutants.
The groups want a judge to order Shell to comply with emissions limits and to fine the company up to $32,500 per day for each violation. The environmental groups allege Shell has committed more than 1,000 violations.
The 1,500-acre refinery is about 20 miles east of downtown Houston, home to one of the world's largest petrochemical complexes and one of the nation's smoggiest cities. The refinery is the nation's eighth largest.