ExxonMobil has been ordered by a federal judge to pay nearly $20 million to settle a lawsuit by the Sierra Club and Environment Texas Citizen Lobby that was filed in 2010. Under the Clean Air Act – which allows people to sue companies for violations of emissions regulations – the groups sued the energy giant for emitting 10 million pounds of illegal air pollution from its petrochemical plant east of Houston between 2005 and 2013.
Exxon originally escaped from the suit unscathed, as the judge originally ruled in favor of the company, saying in 2014 that its emissions events were not severe enough to warrant legal action. He handed down no fines, but a year ago, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the judge to assess the “correct number of actionable violations,” reports the Texas Tribune.
In a statement, ExxonMobil said it disagreed with the court’s decision and the award of any penalty and “will consider legal options including appeal of the court’s decision.” The company says its full compliance history and good faith efforts in terms of compliance should weigh against the necessity of paying a penalty.
Last week, Exxon – which hoped to drill for oil in the Black Sea – did not receive a waiver of US sanctions against Russia.
Exxon chief executive Darren Woods said in a blog post in February that the company spent $7 billion on low-emission energy research and projects during the past 15 years.
Last August, the EPA raised the maximum civil penalty for violations of the Clean Air Act from $37,500 to $93,750, per violation per day. The increased penalties took effect on August 1, 2016, but may be applied to violations that occurred any time after November 2, 2015, the EPA said.