Oil firm owner to pay $3 million in pollution settlement

The owner of a Pasadena oil recovery firm has agreed to pay more than $3 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Harris County claiming the company spilled hazardous materials into the area’s bayou system, county officials announced today.

Klaus Genssler, chief operating officer of U.S. Oil Recovery L.P., has agreed to pay penalties and attorney fees as part of the settlement. The agreement also requires Genssler to honor a permanent injunction barring him from serving as an officer or director, or being employed by any business that generates, transports, processes, stores or disposes hazardous waste or used oil anywhere in Texas, officials with the Harris County Attorney’s Office stated today in a news release announcing the settlement.

County officials said Genssler, his firm and several related entities were found to have operated an illegal hazardous waste processing and oil recycling facility in Pasadena on North Richey Road.

Genssler’s attorney, Joe Sibley, said his client agreed to the settlement to avoid having taxpayers foot the bill for the cleanup if his firm declared bankruptcy.

Sibley said the firm had no assets to pay for the cleanup, and Genssler used money from his own pocket to cover the costs.

“He chose to do the right thing,” Sibley said.

The Harris County Attorney’s Office filed suit in May 2009 against Genssler and U.S. Oil Recovery, MCC Recycling and Genssler Environmental Holdings for violations of environmental laws, county officials said.

The county accused Genssler and his companies of illegally discharging wastewater, causing air nuisances and storing hazardous waste in violation of their permits.

County officials said the company accepted oil and other hazardous chemicals for recycling but did not properly store, contain or process them, allowing tens of thousands of gallons of pollutants to be leaked into the area’s bayou system.

“This has been a hard fight,” County Attorney Vince Ryan stated in a news release. “The stakes were high but in the end the people of Harris County won.”

dale.lezon@chron.com