The state of Texas is suing ExxonMobil for environmental violations, including releasing millions of gallons for firefighting wastewater into the Houston Ship Channel after the fire at the Baytown Olefins plant last Wednesday. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality seeks injunctive relief and civil penalties exceeding $100,000. They are also seeking attorney’s fees and court costs for alleged violations of the Texas Clean Air Act and the Texas Water Code. Harris County also filed a lawsuit against Exxon a day after the company’s plant erupted in flames.
Details About the Baytown Olefins Explosion
The Baytown Olefins plant released a plume of black smoke visible for miles. Not only did the fire cause environmental concerns to the city, but it also left 66 people injured. Workers were sent to the hospital for medical evaluation after sustaining injuries during the accident. Two workers suffered second-and-third-degree burns as a result of the fire and are seeking compensation for their damages. Authorities also had to open a shelter-in-place order that impacted nearly 5,000 people in the area. The cause of the fire is still being investigated.
“The Baytown refinery has resumed normal operations, while the chemical and olefins plant remains at reduced rates,” said ExxonMobil Corp. spokeswoman, Sarah Nordin.
Environmental Impacts of the Baytown Olefins Fire
After the accident, nearly 20 million gallons of firefighting wastewater, combined with stormwater, went into the retention ponds into an adjacent canal that flows into West Fork Goose Creek, making its way to the Tabbs Bay in the Houston Ship Channel. ExxonMobil also released a report that stated the fire triggered the release of dozens of air contaminants including butene, benzene, butadiene, and carbon monoxide. This was the second fire this year at the ExxonMobil facility in Baytown. The March 16 fire also leaked toxic pollutants into the air for eight days.
Lawsuit Against ExxonMobil
Legal analysts believe that ExxonMobil may be trying to get the case consolidated in Travis County instead of Harris County. Since Democrats have taken control of the county government, there have been strict rules on companies who violate environmental standards. ExxonMobil may be seeking softer penalties by getting the case moved to Travis County because the state would take control, instead of Harris County.
“These cases have a significant impact on our community, so they should be local cases, they should be heard by a Harris County judge, and they need be tried, if need be, before a Harris County jury,” said Rock Owens, the managing attorney for Harris County Attorney’s environmental section. He is also the attorney who brought the case against ExxonMobil.
If you’ve been affected by the ExxonMobil Baytown explosion, help is available. The Baytown plant explosion attorneys at Arnold & Itkin have recovered billions of dollars on behalf of our clients. Contact us today for a free consultation at (888) 493-1629.