Inspectioneering
News

Judge Orders Exxon to Pay $19.95 Million for TX Refinery Pollution

Reuters, April 27, 2017
Reuters

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that ExxonMobil Corp should pay a $19.95 million penalty for pollution from its Baytown, Texas, refining and chemical plant complex between 2005 and 2013. U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner issued the ruling in a citizen lawsuit brought under the U.S. Clean Air Act by two environmental groups, Environment Texas and the Sierra Club. Environment Texas welcomed the decision in the long-running suit, which was first filed in 2010.

"We think it might be the largest citizen suit penalty in U.S. history," said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas. "It definitely means it pays not to pollute."

Exxon said it would consider its legal options and may appeal the ruling.

"We disagree with the court's decision and the award of any penalty," Exxon spokesman Todd Spitler said in an emailed statement. "As the court expressed in its decision, ExxonMobil's full compliance history and good faith efforts to comply weigh against assessing any penalty."

The suit was filed under a provision of the Clean Air Act that allows citizens to sue when regulators have failed to stop pollution. The two groups had contended the penalty could run as high as $573 million, but had only sought $41 million. In a 101-page decision, Hittner ruled there had been 16,386 days of violations and 10 million pounds (4.5 million kg) of pollutants had been released in violation of operating permits issued to Exxon for the Baytown complex.

"The court finds given the number of days of violations and the quantitative amount of emissions released as a result, the seriousness factor weighs in favor of the assessment of a penalty," he wrote.

The decision comes about a year after the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined Hittner had errored in a 2014 ruling assessing Exxon's liability for pollution from the refinery, chemical plant and olefins plant in the Baytown complex in the eastern suburbs of Houston. The Fifth Circuit Court sent the case back to Hittner to reassess Exxon's liability. The Baytown complex, which includes the second largest refinery in the United States, is regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which had fined Exxon $1.4 million for pollution. Hittner deducted that amount in determining the penalty. The penalty will be paid to the federal government. Hittner said Exxon was liable for legal fees incurred by the two environmental groups.


(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Richard Pullin)

Click here to read the full article from Reuters.

Copyright 2017 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

Comments and Discussion

There are no comments yet.

Add a Comment

Please log in or register to participate in comments and discussions.

Interested in equipment reliability & integrity? Sign up for weekly updates.

Inspectioneering Journal

Explore over 20 years of articles written by our team of subject matter experts.

Company Directory

Find relevant products, services, and technologies.

Job Postings

Discover job opportunities that match your skillset.

Case Studies

Learn from the experience of others in the industry.

Event Calendar

Find upcoming conferences, training sessions, online events, and more.

Industry News

Stay up-to-date with the latest inspection and asset integrity management news.

Blog

Read short articles and insights authored by industry experts.

Acronyms

Commonly used asset integrity management and inspection acronyms.

Asset Intelligence Reports

Download brief primers on various asset integrity management topics.

Videos

Watch educational and informative videos directly related to your profession.

Expert Interviews

Inspectioneering's archive of interviews with industry subject matter experts.