Port Arthur ordered to pay for environmental violations

This 2005 photo shows the condition of the site prior to the removal action.

The city of Port Arthur and a handful of companies operating within the municipality have entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to pay more than $1 million in damages for their role in “releases of hazardous substances at the State Marine Superfund Site near the city of Port Arthur, Texas,” announced DOJ filings Tuesday, April 23. The announcement from the governmental entity now opens a 30-day public comment period on the allegations made by the DOJ or the resulting settlement with the alleged offenders.

According to the April 23 Federal Register filing, the DOJ lodged a proposed consent decree with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in a lawsuit titled United States and State of Texas v. City of Port Arthur, Texas, et al., Civil Action No. 1:13-cv-00235 on April 17. The DOJ filed the lawsuit under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The complaint, jointly filed by the United States and the State of Texas, names the City of Port Arthur; American Commercial Barge Line LLC; E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company; Huntsman Petrochemical Corporation; Kirby Corporation; Kirby Inland Marine, LP; Phillips 66 Company; Port Neches Towing, Inc.; and Sabine Towing and Transportation Co. Inc. as defendants.

The complaint filed by the DOJ requested recovery of costs that the United States and the State of Texas incurred responding to releases of hazardous substances at the State Marine Superfund Site, a former barge- cleaning operation and municipal landfill occupying a 17-acre industrial tract of land located about 4.5 miles east-northeast of Port Arthur on Old Yacht Club Road on Pleasure Island, a peninsula about a half mile southwest of the mouth of the Neches River. All named defendants signed the consent decree.

“Collectively, the settling defendants agreed to pay $1,029,000 of the United States’ response costs (and $70,000 of the state’s response costs),” DOJ filings state. “In return, the United States agrees not to sue the settling defendants under sections 106 and 107 of CERCLA or under section 7003 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The consent decree also includes a finding that settling defendants are entitled to protection from contribution actions or claims as provided by CERCLA Section 113(f)(2), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 9613(f)(2), for ‘matters addressed’ in the consent decree.”

Public comment is open on the consent agreement until May 23. Comments should be addressed to the Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, and should refer to United States and State of Texas v. City of Port Arthur, Texas et al., D.J. Ref. No. 90-11-3-09504/1. Comments may be submitted either by e-mail at pubcomment-ees [dot] enrd [at] usdoj [dot] gov or through the U.S Postal Service at P.O. Box 7611, Washington, DC 20044-7611.


Jennifer Johnson can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 231, or by e-mail at jennifer [at] theexaminer [dot] com.