Harris County files second lawsuit in six months against ExxonMobil over Baytown plant fire

More than 30 people were injured as a result of the ExxonMobile fire at Bayotwn Complex on July 31.

More than 30 people were injured as a result of the ExxonMobile fire at Bayotwn Complex on July 31.

Harris County is suing ExxonMobile over pollution caused by a July 31 chemical fire that injured more than 30 people at the Olefins Plant in Baytown, according to a press release from County Attorney Vince Ryan’s office.

Ryan’s suit alleges that Exxon violated the Texas Clean Air Act and the Texas Health and Safety Code by releasing “tons of pollutants” into the atmosphere, creating a threat to public health and safety, according to the release.

“Exxon, like any other polluter, must be held accountable for yesterday’s fire and its consequences.” Ryan said in the release.

The fire, which occurred at the Baytown Complex off Hwy. 146 at Spur 330, resulted in the emission of propylene, liquefied petroleum gas, propane and products associated with their combustion, according to the release. ExxonMobil’s website states that the Baytown Olefins plant began operations in 1979 and is one of the largest ethylene plants in the world.

The lawsuit comes less than six months after the county last sued ExxonMobil when an explosion and fire occurred at the Baytown Refinery in March.

As the July 31 incident developed late morning into early afternoon, Harris County Pollution Control Services investigated the violation and provided air-monitoring data to the public. The City of Baytown issued a shelter-in-place for residents who live west of the plant and south of Spur 330 as a precaution. It was lifted just after 3 p.m. on July 31.

In its original petition, the county asks the court to issue temporary and permanent injunctions ordering Exxon to appoint an independent third party to study the incident and make recommendations to the court. This would allow the court to issue orders requiring Exxon to take preventative measures and prevent future incidents, per the release. The county also seeks to recover its court expenses and attorney’s fees.

“This is not the first time my office has been required to focus the county’s scarce resources on this company’s air pollution,” Ryan said in the release.
By Colleen Ferguson
A native central New Yorker, Colleen Ferguson worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. Colleen graduated from Syracuse University in 2019, where she worked for the campus's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange, with a degree in Newspaper and Online Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a degree in Spanish language and culture. Colleen previously interned with The Journal News/lohud, where she covered the commute in the greater New York City area.


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