Air Pollution Trial Against Exxon Begins
Exxon, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, faces a lawsuit alleging that they violated federal air pollution laws at their Baytown refinery in Texas. The trial began in early February as Texas environmental groups continue to push for cleaner refineries along the Houston Ship Channel.
In 2010, the Sierra Club and Environment Texas filed suit, claiming that the Exxon’s own reports indicate there had been thousands of accidental releases at the Baytown refinery. According to court documents, the groups claimed that more than 8 million pounds of pollutants were released into the atmosphere. Some of the emissions contained dangerous chemicals, including benzene and sulfur dioxide.
Dangers of Benzene and Sulfur Dioxide
Benzene is a colorless chemical that evaporates in the air very quickly and is a natural byproduct of crude oil and gasoline production. Benzene has been shown to cause cells not to work properly, including bone marrow that does not produce enough red blood cells or damage to the immune system. The Department of Health and Human Services has determined benzene as a known carcinogen in humans. Sulfur dioxide is common in fossil fuel combustion, and can cause respiratory problems in humans. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strictly regulates the amounts of sulfur dioxide that can be released into the atmosphere, as it can react with other compounds to form small particles that may penetrate deeply into the lung, leading to emphysema and bronchitis.
Despite the fact that the environmental groups have won similar lawsuits against Shell, Chevron and Conoco Phillips, Exxon claims that there is no basis for the litigation. The company says that the groups used aggregating volumes from separate emissions events over an extended period, which led to false levels of dangerous subjects being reported. However, in 2012, Exxon was fined $98,000 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and was ordered to reduce emission of pollutants from the refinery.
When a company negligently releases harmful substances into the atmosphere, and those actions are suspected as the cause or a contributing factor in someone’s illness or death, a personal injury claim may be in order. Contact Dallas-Fort Worth lawyers at Frenkel & Frenkel to schedule a free initial consultation regarding injuries that may have been caused or worsened by the actions of a company.