ExxonMobil agreed to pay a $2.5 million penalty and eliminate thousands of tons of air pollution from its three Baton Rouge facilities in a settlement reached by the Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
The settlement resolves allegations that ExxonMobil violated the Clean Air Act by failing to properly operate and monitor industrial flares at eight petrochemical facilities, which resulted in excess emissions of harmful air pollution.
Three of those facilities are in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and five are located in Texas.
“This settlement means cleaner air for communities across Texas and Louisiana, and reinforces EPA’s commitment to enforce the law and hold those who violate it accountable,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
In total, the court found Exxon had violated the Clean Air Act 16,386 times, with each violation carrying a fine of up to $37,500 per day.
Exxon appealed the April ruling which imposed a $19.95 million penalty, believed to be the largest civil penalty ever imposed in a “citizen suit”, according to a statement released by Environment Texas and Sierra Club, the conservation groups that sued Exxon in 2010.
In a 101-page decision, U.S. District Judge David Hittner found that ExxonMobil profited more than $14 million by delaying the implementation of pollution control.
According to the settlement, ExxonMobil will spend approximately $300 million to install and operate air pollution control and monitoring technology to reduce harmful air pollution from 26 industrial flares at three ExxonMobil facilities in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and five facilities in Texas according to a release by the Department of Justice.
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is also a signatory of the settlement, which resolves alleged violations of Louisiana law at ExxonMobil’s three plants in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Through the settlement, ExxonMobil is required to pay a $2.5 million civil penalty and perform $2.5 million in environmental projects. Those project include $1 million to plant trees in Texas and $1.5 million to buy a mobile air quality monitoring vehicle for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.
The pollution controls are estimated to reduce harmful air emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by more than 7,000 tons per year, once fully implemented.
The settlement is also expected to reduce toxic air pollutants, including benzene, by more than 1,500 tons per year.
VOCs are a pollutant that irritates the lungs, exacerbates diseases such as asthma, and can increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis. Chronic exposure to benzene, which the EPA classifies as a carcinogen, can cause numerous health impacts including leukemia and adverse reproductive effects in women.
“Compliance with air pollution laws and operating permits is mandatory, not optional, and we will not stand idly by when polluters put our health and safety at risk,” Dr. Neil Carman, a former air inspector for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and current Clean Air Program Director for the Sierra Club Lone Star chapter, said.