Image courtesy of ExxonMobil

A civil trial starts Monday in federal court in Houston that will decide if ExxonMobil violated federal air pollution laws at its Baytown refinery.

Baytown — the biggest refinery and petrochemical complex in the United States — sits on 3,400-acres just 20 miles from downtown Houston.

It has a 600,000 barrel a day refining capacity.

The Sierra Club and Environment Texas sued Exxon in 2010, claiming the Baytown plant  — the biggest employer in Houston — had broken its federal air permits.

After years of preliminary wrangling, the civil trial is now set to kick off.

The Dallas News said, “Using [Exxon’s] own reports to regulators, the [environmental] groups claimed that between 2005 and 2010 there had been thousands of accidental releases at the refinery. By their calculation, Baytown unlawfully emitted more than 8 million pounds of pollutants, including benzene and sulfur dioxide, into the atmosphere.”

A spokesperson for Exxon, Todd Spitler, said the numbers aren’t correct.

“Simply aggregating volumes from separate emissions events over an extended time period, as these two groups filing suit have done, does not appropriately or accurately reflect the nature of the events or indicate an underlying issue at our integrated Baytown complex,” he told the Dallas News.

The two environmental groups have already won settlements in 2009 and 2010 from Shell, Chevron and Conoco Phillips worth more than $7 million in near identical litigation, the report said.

Those companies agreed to make changes at a refinery and chemical plant on the Houston ship channel that reduced illegal air pollution by 95 percent, according to Environment Texas.

ExxonMobil has broken clean air laws at the Baytown plant “more than 4,000 separate occasions since 2005 — compounding Texas’ pollution problems and endangering the health of nearby residents,” Environment Texas said.


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