Two environmental advocacy groups, Sierra Club and Environment Texas, yesterday filed a lawsuit in the federal district court in Texas against world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas company Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM: News ) that alleges thousands of violations of federal clean air act at the nation’s largest refinery at Baytown, Tx.
The groups sent two notices of intent to sue ExxonMobil in November 2009 and July 2010 for these violations.
The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring ExxonMobil to end its Clean Air Act violations. ExxonMobil faces civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day for each violation of the Act. The action could potentially result in a maximum of $81.25 million in fines against Exxon for violation of the Clean Air Act.
The two groups allege that Exxon’s Baytown refinery and chemical plant complex are guilty of emitting millions of pounds of illegal air pollution. About 12 million pounds of various air pollutants were released during “upset” events at Baytown complex since November 2004, according to the groups’ analysis of ExxonMobil’s own reports to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
The lawsuit is the third filed by the two environmental groups since 2008 to stop illegal air emissions in the region, close on the heels of ground-breaking settlements reached with Shell Oil Co. and Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. against similar lawsuits. However, the emissions at Exxon’s Baytown complex exceed those in the Shell and Chevron Phillips cases combined, the groups said.
Shell paid a $5.8 million penalty and agreed to upgrade its Deer Park refinery and chemical plant, while Chevron Phillips agreed to pay a $2 million penalty and upgrade its Cedar Bayou Chemical Plant.