Environmental lawyer says AG entered Valero fray to give company a break

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The Texas Attorney General’s Office was drawn into a lawsuit against Valero Refinery Port Arthur for the purpose of softening penalties and restrictions against the company, an attorney for the National Environmental Law Center alleged this week, as reported by the Port Arthur News.

On May 22, Environment Texas, the Port Arthur Community Action Network and the Sierra Club announced their intention to sue San Antonio-based Valero because of hundreds of emissions and flaring violations the company has racked up in the past five years.

The federal Clean Air Act requires the state to file suit within 60 days of the groups’ announcement or let those organizations proceed with their action. AG Ken Paxton’s office filed suit on Day 58 of that waiting period, but Josh Kratka, senior attorney for NELC, isn’t convinced the office will vigorously pursue strong measures against Valero. 

He told the News that companies sometimes want state AGs to sue them to preempt more vigorous challenges from environmental groups.

“In my experience, that happens with some frequency,” Kratka said. “There are many instances in which the polluter runs to the government and asks to be sued. We will try to find out if that’s the case here. We will watch to see what the attorney general does with the suit.”

Kratka said that if the AG’s office allows the lawsuit to languish or gives Valero a slap on the wrist, the environment groups will seek to intervene.

A spokeswoman for Paxton’s office told the News on Wednesday that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality asked the attorney general to intervene. The state agency is generally considered to have a weak record of regulating the oil and gas industry.

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