Environmental groups sue ExxonMobil over Texas air emissions

14 December 2010 15:58  [Source: ICIS news]

ExxonMobil Baytown complexBAYTOWN, Texas (ICIS)--The Sierra Club and other environmental groups are suing ExxonMobil for $81.25m (€60.94m), alleging that the company's Baytown complex is violating the nation's Clean Air Act, the Sierra Club said on Tuesday.  

The groups allege that the complex has emitted more than 8m lb (3,600 tonnes) of pollutants into the air over the last five years.

Neil Carman, director of the Sierra Club's Texas chapter, said the lawsuit, filed in federal court, accuses ExxonMobil of 2,500 clean air violations.

 ExxonMobil’s Baytown refinery is the largest in the US with 560,640 bbl/day of capacity, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). Its downstream plants produce chemicals including benzene, butadiene (BD), butyl rubber, ethylene, orthoxylene (OX), paraxylene (PX), polypropylene (PP), propylene and toluene.

ExxonMobil did not immediately issue a response.

Sierra Club and Environment Texas twice notified ExxonMobil and regulatory environmental agencies of their intent to sue, once in November 2009 and a second time in July, the groups said.

The Clean Air Act contains a “citizen suit” provision that allows private citizens affected by violations to bring a federal lawsuit after providing 60 days prior notice.

Citizens can seek a court order requiring compliance with the law and a monetary penalty of up to $37,500/day for each violation of the act.

The lawsuit is the third filed by the two groups. In April 2009, Shell reached a $5.8m settlement and agreed to reduce upset emissions by 80% within three years

The $5.8m civil penalty is believed to be the largest in an environmental citizen suit in Texas history, and nationally one of the largest ever against a single facility, the groups said.

More recently, Chevron Phillips Chemical in November announced a settlement in which it would give $2m to a local college and cap upset emissions by 85%.

($1 = €0.75)

(Additional reporting by Al Greenwood)

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By: Ben DuBose
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