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ExxonMobil Will not Admit Baton Rouge Plants Had Security Violations

This text was printed in “The Louisiana Weekly” within the Jan. 20, 2014 version.
ExxonMobil should pay $2.329 million in a settlement, announced by Louisiana’s Dept. of Environmental Quality final August and finalized early this month, to handle violations from 2008 into 2013 at its greater Baton Rouge facilities. The settlement was DEQ’s greatest with any firm last year. However critics question whether or not the agreement was massive sufficient or even acceptable. chemical system ExxonMobil, a significant employer in the state capital, was cited for a collection of issues at its refinery and resin-ending and chemical plants in East Baton Rouge Parish and its tank-farm facility in West Baton Rouge.

Within the agreement, DEQ stated the settlement spares both parties the expense of litigation. The settlement was proposed by ExxonMobil and authorised by the state following extensive negotiations, according to DEQ. ExxonMobil within the accord denies that it committed any violations or is liable for any penalties. But the corporate nonetheless agreed to a $300,000 cost to settle claims. Of that, $34,386 coated DEQ’s enforcement prices in opposition to ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge-space facilities.

Early this month, DEQ stated the settlement was accredited following a public evaluate interval late last 12 months and was signed by state Legal professional Common Buddy Caldwell in December. In addition to paying a civil penalty of $300,000 to DEQ, ExxonMobil beneath the agreement must spend at the very least $1 million on Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures or SPCC initiatives at its Baton Rouge complicated and will fund beneficial environmental tasks or BEPs totaling $1.029 million. The accord offers ExxonMobil deadlines and requires the corporate to maintain DEQ updated on how its settlement obligations are met.

In a separate penalty last August, DEQ fined ExxonMobil $sixty one,912 for violations related to a June 14, 2012 naphtha release at its Baton Rouge chemical plant. Naphtha contains benzene, which the U.S. Environmental Safety Company classifies as a human carcinogen. Residents close to the plant said they suffered well being ailments from the discharge.

The ultimate agreement incorporates greater than forty pages of violations for chemical releases and spills and operational infractions relationship to 2008. Back-to-back incidents occurred at occasions. Unauthorized refinery discharges reported by ExxonMobil, as an illustration, were almost monthly in some years, and had been particularly frequent in 2008–once they totaled not less than six in Might alone.

So what does the company say in regards to the settlement “ExxonMobil labored with DEQ final year to determine ways we can go beyond regulatory and permit requirements to proceed to enhance our environmental performance going forward,” Stephanie Cargile, the corporate’s authorities affairs manager in Baton Rouge, mentioned last week. “As well as to making direct penalty payments to DEQ, ExxonMobil will make donations to native oil Refinery Plant non-revenue organizations. ExxonMobil voluntarily recognized several initiatives that will improve the atmosphere of neighborhoods near our operations.” She mentioned the company solicited input final yr from neighbors and regulatory agencies–the East Baton Rouge Mayor’s Workplace of Homeland Safety and Emergency Preparedness, DEQ and the state’s Dept. of Pure Sources–to handle community wants and supported their suggestions.

By way of funding, the highest 4 BEPs authorized underneath the settlement are $400,000 for a Groundwater Reduction Challenge to trim the corporate’s groundwater utilization; a $250,000 donation to DEQ to improve its Early Warning Organic Chemical Detection System; a $one hundred,000 donation to the East Baton Rouge Mayor’s Office of Homeland Safety chemical system and Emergency Preparedness/Local Emergency Planning Committee to implement the ExxonMobil North Baton Rouge Emergency Preparedness Initiative; and a $a hundred,000 donation to Rebuilding Together Baton Rouge for weatherproofing and air tightening of houses, particularly those next to ExxonMobil amenities.

What’s the impetus for ExxonMobil to improve its practices in Baton Rouge “The only part of the settlement that seems geared toward correcting problems and stopping future emissions is the $1 million for the Spill Prevention Control or the SPCC program,” Anna Hrybyk, program manager on the Louisiana Bucket Brigade in New Orleans, said final week.

SPCC is a set of U.S. Environmental Safety Company laws, implemented in 1973 and up to date since then, to prevent oil spills. Refineries and different amenities are required to have oil spill prevention or SPCC plans.

“The SPCC plan is already a requirement of their permits,” Hrybyk stated. “So that is like giving Exxon again $1 million to do with as they please.” The Bucket Brigade desires to try Exxon’s SPCCs. “We filed a public records request with DEQ, and Exxon has 60 days from finalization of the settlement on Jan. 9 to submit its SPCC to DEQ beneath our request,” she stated. “After that, I am not sure how long it would take for us to get it.”

Jean Kelly, DEQ spokeswoman, stated that below federal requirements present SPCC plans at ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge complex include procedures, methods, gear and different methods to stop oil discharges from non-transportation facilities into navigable waters. SPCC Regulation forty CFR Half 112 requires such plans. “The settlement settlement goes above and beyond this requirement by having ExxonMobil focus on its benzene storage tanks, since its spill occurred from a benzene storage tank, and to focus specifically on these tanks that comprise better that 20 p.c benzene,” she mentioned. Kelly was referring to the company’s June 14, 2012 benzene accident. Under the settlement, Exxon should enhance benzene tank spill-detection and containment to reduce health and environmental dangers, she stated. The settlement’s benzene-tank necessities exceed federal guidelines.

“However having an SPCC on file does not appear to do anything to forestall accidents at Exxon,” Hrybyk mentioned. “The corporate’s Baton Rouge complicated has the very best accident charge of refineries and associated chemical plants in the state, and averaged almost two accidents per week in 2012. And that was solely what they reported.” ExxonMobil would not always inform the truth about its accidents, she said, pointing to the company’s June 2012 benzene spill. “Based on DEQ’s penalty worksheet for that violation, Exxon waited fifty two hours earlier than telling DEQ that over 31,000 pounds of benzene had leaked, not 10 pounds as the corporate initially reported.”

Moreover, “the money allotted for the Local Emergency Planning Committee and Rebuilding Together isn’t sufficient to enhance environmental health in the world, given Exxon’s frequent accidents,” Hrybyk stated. “How can you weatherize houses with $one hundred,000 for fifty nine,000 people dwelling within two miles of the plant That small amount is an insult to people living near the power whose properties will not be air tight.”

Hrybyk said sheltering in place in less-than-air-tight homes is dangerous throughout leaks as a result of chemicals seep into houses and turn into trapped there. “A few of these chemicals are heavier than air, causing antagonistic well being results, and they are notably dangerous for kids,” she mentioned. When plants in Louisiana have accidents that emit chemicals, nearby residents are usually ordered to shelter at residence. Authorities say that keeps them out of smoke chemical system and hurt’s way.

In the settlement, Exxon additionally agreed to a $50,000 donation to the Baton Rouge Space Foundation for groundwater-conservation consciousness in East Baton Rouge Parish; a $50,000 donation to DEQ to fund the company’s Expanded Age Distribution and Automobile Inhabitants Data Undertaking on emissions in Louisiana; a $29,000 donation to the Louisiana Foundation for Excellence in Science, Technology and Training, or LaFESTE, for the Baton Rouge Clean Air Coalition; a $25,000 donation to Baton Rouge Green Association Inc.’s NeighborWoods undertaking close to the refinery; and $25,000 payment to install a meteorological station at the company’s Baton Rouge refinery complicated.

Cargile stated the company’s BEP payments must be made inside 60 days after the finalized agreement on Jan. 9. “The projects, of course, may take longer to implement,” she said.