Nearly 100 residents of Port Arthur have joined forces in court to sue the Premcor Refining Group, accusing the company of pumping toxic chemicals into the air and harming many of the area’s children.
According to the lawsuit filed last Friday in Jefferson County District Court on behalf of 78 minors as well as a number of individuals who recently turned 18, the refinery over the past seven years illegally released toxic substances into Port Arthur’s neighborhoods, homes, daycare centers, schools and places of worship.
“Some of the release events have been so serious,” it states in the lawsuit, “that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has issued notices of enforcement and/or notices of violation against” the refinery.
The families state that the children suffer respiration difficulties including asthma, bronchitis and sinus problems. They do not fault the refinery with causing the maladies, but rather with exacerbating the existing medical conditions. The families claim in the lawsuit that the company is responsible because it failed to monitor, maintain, repair and prevent the dangerous chemicals from being released.
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In 2005, San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp. purchased the Port Arthur refinery from Premcor. According to news reports, Valero agreed last summer to pay millions of dollars in fines to the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency and will spend an additional $147 million on better pollution controls at its refineries in Port Arthur and Tennessee. Valero has said that it approached the EPA in order to address fears the EPA had concerning four refineries Valero bought from Premcor. – Chris Vogel