Deposition gets reaction from lawyer, refinery

Marilyn Tennissen Apr. 3, 2007, 12:00pm

A recent deposition for a refinery lawsuit had both sides making their own interpretation of the statements.

Beaumont attorney Thomas Pearson said the deposition by a Valero environmental manager was "astonishing."

The environmental manager testified March 29 "that none of the flare stack emissions from Valero's Port Arthur refinery are allowed under any permits granted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality," according to the press release from the law firm of Pearson and Campbell.

Pearson is one of the attorneys in a lawsuit filed in 2004 on behalf of 2,250 children younger than 18 against Valero, Motiva and Total.

"Not unexpectedly, Mr. Pearson's press release is full of inaccuracies and reflects either his basic misunderstanding of the law or his failure to to comprehend the statements made to him during a deposition," Bill Day, corporate communications officer for Valero said in a statement.

"Our Port Arthur Refinery's flares and tanks are permitted pursuant to the authority of the TCEQ with Environmental Protection Agency oversight," Day said.

Flare and emissions levels are authorized in the refinery's air permit from the TCEQ, according to a statement from Valero officials. When an unscheduled incident occurs, the refinery has to notify TCEQ of its occurrence and report how much was burned off.

According to the TCEQ, the unscheduled incidents are not listed in the air permit, but are allowable if they meet certain standards.

Day added that from 2001 to 2005, the plant's total emissions decreased by 60 percent. Since aquiring the facility in September 2005, Valero has invested more than $1 billion to improve the refinery and has around $43 million in environmental projects planned over the next five years that will decrease emissions even further, Day said.

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