State sues Exxon Mobil over environmental violations from Baytown fire

The state of Texas is suing Exxon Mobil for environmental violations days after Harris County filed its own lawsuit following last week’s explosion and fire at one of the petrochemical giant’s Baytown facilities.

The lawsuit, filed by the attorney general on behalf of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, seeks injunctive relief, civil penalties exceeding $100,000, attorney’s fees and court costs for violations of the Texas Clean Air Act and the Texas Water Code.

A July 31 explosion and fire at Exxon Mobil’s Baytown Olefins Plant injured 37 people and produced a plume of black smoke visible for miles. The City of Baytown issued an order to shelter-in-place for residents who live west of the plant and south of Spur 330.

It was the second fire this year at an Exxon Mobil facility in Baytown. The company’s operations in the east Harris County city have a history of environmental violations stretching back to 2013.

According to initial reports, the explosion and fire happened in the Propylene Recovery Unit due to a loss of containment and ignition of a propane and polypropylene mixture, the state said in court documents.

The cause of the fire still is being investigated. Two workers who suffered second- and third-degree burns as a result of the fire have filed lawsuits seeking more than $1 million in damages.

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