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Exxon Mobil Corporation/Exxonmobil Oil Corporation Clean Air Act Settlement

(Washington, D.C. – October 31, 2017) - EPA, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality announced a settlement today with Exxon Mobil Corp. and ExxonMobil Oil Corp., (ExxonMobil) that will eliminate thousands of tons of harmful air pollution from eight of Exxon’s petrochemical manufacturing facilities in Texas and Louisiana. The settlement resolves allegations that ExxonMobil violated the Clean Air Act by failing to properly operate and monitor industrial flares at their petrochemical facilities, which resulted in excess emissions of harmful air pollution.

Overview of Company

The owners and/or operators of the eight plants subject to this settlement are Exxon Mobil Corporation and its subsidiary ExxonMobil Oil Corporation (collectively “Exxon”). Exxon Mobil Corporation is a publicly traded company headquartered in Irving, Texas.

The settlement involves the reduction of air pollution from petrochemical and chemical flares. A flare is a mechanical device, ordinarily with a flame elevated high off the ground, used to combust (burn) waste gases that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere during certain industrial processes.

The settlement covers 26 Exxon flares at two types of facilities:

Olefins Plants. The primary products of these plants are two types of olefins: ethylene and propylene. Ethylene is a feedstock used in the production of consumer plastic products such as garbage bags, bread wrappers, packaging, and wire insulation. Propylene is also a feedstock used to create products such as carpet, upholstery, boats, and car parts.

The following olefins plants are subject to this settlement:

  • Baton Rouge Chemical Plant
  • Baytown Chemical Plant
  • Baytown Olefins Plant
  • Beaumont Chemical Plant

Polymer Plants. The primary products of these plants are different grades of a polymer known as polyethylene. Polyethylene is the feedstock in creating consumer products such as food containers/packaging, carpet backing, diapers, pipe, truck bed liners, and shipping crates. Polyethylene is the most common plastic in the world.

The following polymer plants are subject to this settlement:

  • Baton Rouge Plastics Plant
  • Baton Rouge Polyolefins Plant
  • Beaumont Polyethylene Plant
  • Mont Belvieu Plastics Plant

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The complaint alleges that Exxon violated Clean Air Act (CAA) and regulatory requirements, which resulted in excess emissions of pollutants, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and various hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) including benzene. The allegations include violations of:

  • New Source Review/Prevention of Significant Deterioration (NSR/PSD) and Minor New Source Review, 40 C.F.R. Parts 51 and 52
  • New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), 40 C.F.R. Part 60, Subparts A, VV, DDD, and NNN.
  • National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), 40 C.F.R. Part 61, Subparts A, J, V, and FF.
  • NESHAP, 40 C.F.R. Part 63, Subparts A, F, G, H, YY, and FFFF.
  • Title V and the Title V permits at Exxon’s facilities
  • Texas State Implementation Plan (SIP) requirements

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Injunctive Relief

The consent decree requires Exxon to take the following actions to resolve the CAA claims:

  • Submit and implement waste gas minimization plans, which are detailed plans for reducing the amount of waste gas that will be sent to flares. 
  • Undertake a root cause analysis and implement corrective action for “reportable flaring incidents” (i.e., greater than 500,000 standard cubic feet per day waste gas flow above baseload flows).
  • Operate the following flare gas recovery systems at the petrochemical/olefins facilities: 
    • Baton Rouge Chemical – 2 compressors with a capacity of 3.8 million standard cubic feet (mscf) per day.
    • Baytown Chemical – 5 compressors with a capacity of 5.0 mscf/day.
    • Baytown Olefins – 1 compressor with a capacity of 5.3 mscf/day.
    • Beaumont Chemical – 1 compressor with a capacity of 2.9 mscf/day.
  • The above flare gas recovery systems must be available for operation a high percentage of time.
  • Install and operate flare monitoring and control equipment at all eight plants in order to assure high combustion efficiency at all flares subject to the settlement.
  • Operate fenceline monitoring stations to detect the presence of benzene from four of the covered plants.  Monitoring data will be made publicly available on the internet.

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Pollutant Impacts

  • Nitrogen Oxides – Nitrogen oxides can cause ground-level ozone, acid rain, particulate matter, global warming, water quality deterioration, and visual impairment. Nitrogen oxides play a major role, with volatile organic chemicals, in the atmospheric reactions that produce ozone.  Children, people with lung diseases such as asthma, and people who work or exercise outside are susceptible to adverse effects such as damage to lung tissue and reduction in lung function.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds - VOCs, along with NOx, play a major role in the atmospheric reactions that produce ozone, which is the primary constituent of smog.  People with lung disease, children, older adults, and people who are active can be affected when ozone levels are unhealthy. Ground-level ozone exposure is linked to a variety of short-term health problems, including lung irritation and difficulty breathing, as well as long-term problems, such as permanent lung damage from repeated exposure, aggravated asthma, reduced lung capacity, and increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
  • Benzene - Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure of humans to benzene may cause drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory tract irritation, and, at high levels, unconsciousness.  Chronic (long-term) inhalation exposure has caused various disorders in the blood, including reduced numbers of red blood cells and anemia in occupational settings.  Reproductive effects have been reported for women exposed by inhalation to high levels, and adverse effects on the developing fetus have been observed in animal tests.  Increased incidences of leukemia have been observed in humans occupationally exposed to benzene.  EPA has classified benzene as a Group A human carcinogen.
  • Particulate Matter – PM, especially fine particles, contain microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can get deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems. PM is linked to a variety of problems, including increased respiratory symptoms such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing, decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

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Health Effects and Environmental Benefits

When fully implemented, the new controls and requirements under the consent decree are estimated to reduce emissions as follows:

  • VOCs by 7,067 tons per year (tpy)
  • Hazardous Air Pollutants by 1,565 tpy
  • Nitrogen Oxides by 63 tpy
  • Unquantifiable reductions of PM

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Civil Penalty

  • Exxon will pay a civil penalty of $2.5 million.
  • LDEQ will receive $470,000 of the civil penalty, which corresponds to 50% of the penalty attributable to the violations at Exxon’s Baton Rouge facilities.  

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Federal SEP

Exxon will perform a federal supplemental environmental project (SEP) by planting trees in the City of Baytown. These trees will provide a natural buffer to reduce the transport of airborne pollutants from Exxon’s chemical plants into nearby communities.

The settlement also requires Exxon to perform two state beneficial environmental projects, which are similar to SEPs, and that will benefit Louisiana.  

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.  Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice.

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Contact Information

Robert Parrish 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2242A) 
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. 
Washington, DC 20460-0001 
(202) 564-6946

Patrick W. Foley 
Senior Environmental Engineer 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2242A) 
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. 
Washington, DC 20460-0001 
(202) 564-7978

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