Monday, August 23, 1999
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn today announced that his office had won a $76 million jury verdict against the San Jacinto Paint Company for having violated Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) rules concerning hazardous wastes.
"I will vigorously pursue environmental violations that threaten the health and safety of Texans. I applaud the jury for sending a clear message that those who pollute our environment will receive harsh punishment," said Attorney General Cornyn.
The City of Houston originally brought suit against San Jacinto Paint and others in control of a paint processing facility in Houston. The case alleged numerous violations of Houston's Fire Code and TNRCC rules. First, San Jacinto Paint violated TNRCC rules regarding the storage of hazardous wastes without a permit. Second, San Jacinto Paint violated TNRCC rules regarding the collection, handling, or disposal of hazardous waste as to cause the discharge or imminent threat of discharge of hazardous waste into the waters in the state.
On both counts, the Court found violations beginning on May 11, 1994. The jury returned a civil penalty verdict for $20,000 per day (1,919 days of violations) for each TNRCC rules violation. The total fines are over $76 million which will be split between the City of Houston and the State according to statute. Also, the jury returned penalties on the City's Fire Code violations of approximately four million dollars.
"This verdict demonstrates that polluters in Texas face serious consequences for these types of violations," said TNRCC Commissioner Ralph Marquez. "The state of Texas is very pleased with the verdict and will continue to work to ensure that cleanup of this site and the protection of human health and the environment will be carried out."
The wastes are stored in three warehouses and a trailer. The facility is currently under review by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a possible removal action. A final judgment hearing has been set for September 9, 1999. This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Jane Atwood of the Austin office of the Natural Resources Division. The lawsuit was filed in the 189th District Court in Harris County.
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