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Groups Sue Notorious Texas Refinery For Toxic Emissions That Created ‘Rotten Egg Odor’

This isn’t the first time the refinery has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

A pair of environmental groups have leveled a lawsuit against a refinery company in Texas for emissions they say created smells like a “rotten egg odor…and chemical odors.”

According to the lawsuit, an aging refinery owned by Pasadena Refining System, Inc. (PRSI) has violated the U.S. Clean Air Act “thousands” of times by releasing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide above daily and yearly limits.

The groups suing PRSI, Environment Texas and the Sierra Club’s Lone Star chapter, have asked for civil penalties and for the court to appoint someone keep track of the facility’s operations.

"We think they need to be held accountable for thousands of releases of dangerous pollution into the community," Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, said.

In an email to Reuters, PRSI said that its refinery complies with government regulations.

Potential penalties under the Clean Air Act, which allows citizens to sue through federal courts, could be millions of dollars.

This isn’t the first time that PRSI, which is owned by Brazil’s state-run oil company, Petrobras, has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. In fact, the refinery’s track record for safety and pollution violations have become notorious in the industry.

"Everybody knows that place is a ticking time bomb," Mike Boydston, a veteran of the industrial east side, who worked at the nearby Kinder Morgan tank farm, told the Houston Chronicle last year. "I mean, look at it. I quit going in there. I refuse."

Last year, 11 people were injured at the facility, including one person who was hurt after an explosion.  

Between 2010 and 2016, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued $1.1 million in fines against PRSI. The same agency reported that PRSI had seven emission events between October 2015 and March 2016, as well as 60 such events between 2005 and 2016.

"Other facilities and refineries don't have this type of event with this regularity," Adrian Shelley of Air Alliance Houston told the Houston Chronicle. "It's indicative of a place with abnormal operations."

A December 2011 explosion at the facility also earned the company a $14,000 fine from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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