Sierra Club and Environment Texas filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal district court against Shell Oil Company and several affiliates. The groups claim 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 air pollutants over the past five years, including toxic chemicals such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene.
The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring Shell to end its Clean Air Act violations. In addition, Shell faces civil penalties of up to $32,500 per day for each violation of the Clean Air Act.
Shell Oil Company is an affiliate of Royal Dutch Shell, ranked by "Fortune" magazine as the third largest company in the world.
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."
The Clean Air Act contains a "citizen suit" provision that allows private citizens affected by violations of the law to bring an enforcement suit in federal court if state and federal regulators do not.