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December 11, 2011Refinery Explosions Near Houston; Residents “Shelter in Place”

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Media Contact

Juan Parras; Executive Director, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services;, (281) 513-7799. Juan works with those most impacted by chemicals in the Houston area and runs "toxic tours" showing the shocking conditions where people are.

Neil Carman, PhD; Lone Star Chapter of Sierra Club;, (512) 288-5772. Dr. Carman is a chemist who can discuss the toxic chemicals communities are exposed to from the chemical plants.

Contact: Stephenie Hendricks, (415) 258-9151,

(PASADENA, TX ) Pasadena Refining System, Inc. plant located off of 100 Traffic Circle at Red Bluff apparently has had two explosions with a fire in their coker unit. Local ABC News is reporting at least two people injured.

“People have been told to stay inside, but we know the air inside and out is toxic,” says Juan Parras from Texas Environmental Justice Advisory Services (t.e.j.a.s.), “This is a terrifying situation for families living nearby.”

Parras leads federal, state and local officials on “toxic tours” of communities where people are living side by side the refineries in the Houston ship channel.

“The air needs to be tested right now so we know what people have been exposed to. The residents need to be alerted and informed,” says Parras.

Texas reportedly has an average of 4 “shelter in place” episodes per week," says Parras, “Refinery incidents where toxics have been released into the environment are happening in an area with epidemic proportions of asthma, accounting for much of the state’s nearly 3 million cases.

The Pasadena refinery is an 80-yr old plant built in 1930-31 and some parts of the old 1930 refinery are in service to this day,” explains Dr. Neil Carman from the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Cub. “It's not nearly as big a refinery as Exxon 
Baytown or Shell Deer Park and has a long history of problems and CAA violations.”

Sierra Club and several Pasadena residents sued the previous owner, Crown Central Petroleum, in 1996 for 15,000 violations of the Clean Air Act.

Pasadena residents have nicknamed their community "Pasadena, Stinkadena!” in part due to this refinery.

The coker is a small facility but the fine petroleum coke will burn due to the hydrocarbons being produced. It's not clear, however, what part of the coker exploded from the news story.

“Smoke, soot and fire would produce a variety of toxic emissions. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons or PAHs like benzene-alpha-pyrene are super carcinogens and more powerfully carcinogenic than benzene. Soot contains many PAHs including benzene-alpha-pyrene,” says Carman.

In a story published Nov. 8, 2011 by StateImpact, a reporting project of local public media and NPR, Pasadena resident Shelley Myers, mother of a six year old boy said, “Sometimes you get a strong odor from something. You don’t know if it’s bad to be breathing it in, or our kid to be breathing it, playing outside in it.” Ms. Myers’ son goes to Kruse Elementary, which is less than a mile away from petrochemical plants like the Pasadena Refinery System.

In 2009, the refinery released more pollution into the air than in previous years: almost a half million pounds of chemicals.

The TCEQ, which has been criticized for not taking stronger action against the repeat offender refinery has previously cited Pasadena Refinery System, Inc for violations and leveled penalties against the company for more than $300,000 over the past five years.

Additional Resources

EPA Detailed Facility Report


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