Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee settled a lawsuit with Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) for $900,000 in connection with the 2019 Deer Park fire. Two years ago, a fire erupted at ITC’s bulk liquid terminal when a tank containing a flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture caught fire, eventually spreading to additional tanks. The fire created a plume over the entirety of the City of Houston before the fire was extinguished days later. The fire made national news and closed local schools and businesses.
The lawsuit holds ITC accountable for the Deer Park fire, specifically for violating Harris County development regulations and discharging pollutants into the County stormwater system. The Texas Attorney General’s Office is pursuing an environmental enforcement case against ITC for unlawful air emissions and water discharges without the County. Because of a recent state law that takes away Harris County’s right to bring cases under state environmental laws where the state has already intervened, Harris County was not able to bring the claims brought by the AttorneyGeneral. The Attorney General’s lawsuit is filed in Travis County and will not be heard by a Harris County judge or jury.
Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee released the following statement:
“The Harris County Attorney’s Office will use any tools available to hold industry accountable at the local level. This is also a victory for taxpayers, almost $1,000,000 will be returned to the County. This is a sizeable settlement—one of the largest our office has achieved for this type of case. We will look at all angles to seek environmental justice and push these companies to follow proper preventative measures to avoid future disasters like this one,” said Menefee. “I also urge state legislators to revisit the law preventing Harris County from bringing environmental claims that affect its residents. Harris County should be allowed to pursue comprehensive actions against these polluters, and my office stands ready to do just that.”
About the Harris County Attorney’s Office
Christian D. Menefee serves as the Harris County Attorney, the County’s chief civil lawyer. The Harris County Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting and proactively advocating for the interests of Harris County residents and government through the civil justice system. This settlement represents Menefee’s commitment to protect the environment by holding polluters accountable. Menefee continues to be a voice for the people, standing up for vulnerable communities and using civil actions to ensure our rights are protected and expanded.