ExxonMobil to spend $590 million in clean air settlement

Tuesday, October 11th 2005, 2:32 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ ExxonMobil Corp. will spend an estimated $571 million for pollution controls at seven oil refineries in a settlement with the government and three states over alleged violations of clean air laws.

The company also will pay fines totaling $8.7 million and spend $9.7 million to retrofit city buses, restore coastal habitat in Louisiana and sponsor other environmental projects around the refineries.

The settlement aims to reduce annual emissions of toxins that can cause respiratory problems and worsen cases of childhood asthma, the Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department said Tuesday.

The refineries covered in two consent decrees filed in federal courts in Chicago and Lafayette, La., represent 11 percent of the nation's refining capacity. The public has 30 days to comment before the agreements can be approved by the courts.

Under the settlement, annual emissions of acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide are to be cut by 42,000 tons and those of smog-forming nitrogen oxides are to be reduced by 11,000 tons. Improvements also are required for detecting leaks, minimizing the flaring of hazardous gases, cutting pollution from sulfur recovery plants and handling benzene wastes.

ExxonMobil, based in Dallas, agreed to the settlement without the government filing suit so it could expand fuel production in compliance with the Clean Air Act. Three states that joined in the settlement _ Illinois, Louisiana and Montana _ will share the civil penalties.

Prem Nair, a spokeswoman for ExxonMobil, said the settlement ``is in the best interest of the company and supports the continued trend of emission reductions'' at its refineries. She said ExxonMobil denies any claims that it violated any laws or regulations.

With the settlement, one in a string of such actions, almost 77 percent of the nation's domestic refining capacity now operates under a consent decree with government to enforce clean air laws.

``That will lead to reductions of more than 315,000 tons of pollutants annually from the 17 refining companies that have agreed to come into compliance,'' said Granta Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator in charge of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

The affected ExxonMobil refineries are located in Baton Rouge, La.; Baytown and Beaumont, Texas; Billings, Mont.; Chalmette, La.; Joliet, Ill.; and Torrance, Calif.

The Chalmette refinery is owned by Chalmette Refining, L.L.C., a joint venture between ExxonMobil and Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.