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By Erwin Seba
HOUSTON, April 23 Shell Oil Co, the Sierra Club
and a Texas environmental group have agreed on Thursday to
settle a federal Clean Air Act lawsuit against Shell's
Houston-area refinery and chemical plant.
Under the proposed settlement, Shell promises to cut
pollution from malfunctions at the 329,800-barrel per day (bpd)
Deer Park, Texas, refinery, upgrade the refinery's coking unit
and the Deer Park chemical plant flare system, increase
pollution monitoring and pay a $5.8-million civil penalty,
according to a statement issued by the groups.
"We are pleased that we have reached an agreement with the
citizen groups to resolve the matter, avoid continued
litigation and provide benefits in the public interest," Shell
said in a statement.
The bulk of the civil penalty will go to refit Houston-area
diesel-powered school buses with better pollution control
devices and for a solar energy pilot program for public
"We urge other oil and chemical companies in the region to
take note of Shell's willingness to work constructively with us
in developing solutions to the problems at the Deer Park
facility - problems that are not unique to Shell," said Neil
Carman of the Sierra Club's Texas chapter.
The refinery upgrades could cost tens of millions of
The proposed settlement must be approved by U.S. District
Court Judge David Hittner before it takes effect.
If Shell fails to adhere to the pollution limits in the
settlement, it agrees to pay automatic monetary penalties.
The Sierra Club and Environment Texas Citizen Lobby brought
the lawsuit in January 2008 under the U.S. Clean Air Act to
force the refinery and chemical plant in the Houston suburb of
Deer Park into greater compliance with the federal
Environmental groups increasingly turned to citizen
enforcement lawsuits to reduce refinery pollution during the
Bush Administration, which was seen as lax on enforcement of
Shell Oil Co is the U.S. unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc
(RDSa.L). Shell is the sole owner of the Deer Park chemical
plant, but the Deer Park refinery is a 50-50 joint venture
between Shell and Mexico's state oil monopoly Pemex.
The Deer Park refinery is the ninth largest in the United
(Editing by Marguerita Choy)