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ExxonMobil Won’t Admit Baton Rouge Plants Had Security Violations

This text was revealed in “The Louisiana Weekly” within the Jan. 20, 2014 edition.
ExxonMobil must pay $2.329 million in a settlement, introduced by Louisiana’s Dept. of Environmental Quality final August and finalized early this month, to address violations from 2008 into 2013 at its higher Baton Rouge services. The settlement was DEQ’s largest with any company last year. But critics question whether the settlement was massive enough and even acceptable. ExxonMobil, a significant employer in the state capital, was cited for a sequence of problems at its refinery and resin-ending and chemical plants in East Baton Rouge Parish and its tank-farm facility in West Baton Rouge.

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Within the agreement, DEQ said the settlement spares both events the expense of litigation. The settlement was proposed by ExxonMobil and authorized by the state following in depth negotiations, in response to DEQ. ExxonMobil in the accord denies that it committed any violations or is liable for any penalties. However the company nonetheless agreed to a $300,000 cost to settle claims. Of that, $34,386 lined DEQ’s enforcement prices towards ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge-space amenities.

Early this month, DEQ said the settlement was approved following a public evaluation interval late final year and was signed by state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell in December. In addition to paying a civil penalty of $300,000 to DEQ, ExxonMobil below the agreement should spend a minimum of $1 million on Spill Prevention Management and Countermeasures or SPCC projects at its Baton Rouge complex and can fund helpful environmental tasks or BEPs totaling Efficient Atomization Desulfurization Dust-Removal Device $1.029 million. The accord provides ExxonMobil deadlines and requires the company to maintain DEQ updated on how its settlement obligations are met.

In a separate penalty final August, DEQ fined ExxonMobil $61,912 for violations associated with a June 14, 2012 naphtha launch at its Baton Rouge chemical plant. Naphtha incorporates benzene, which the U.S. Environmental Safety Company classifies as a human carcinogen. Residents near the plant stated they suffered well being ailments from the discharge.

The final agreement comprises greater than forty pages of violations for chemical releases and spills and operational infractions courting to 2008. Back-to-back incidents occurred at occasions. Unauthorized refinery discharges reported by ExxonMobil, as an illustration, were nearly month-to-month in some years, and were particularly frequent in 2008–once they totaled not less than six in May alone.

So what does the company say concerning the settlement “ExxonMobil labored with DEQ final yr to establish methods we will go beyond regulatory and permit requirements to proceed to boost our environmental performance going ahead,” Stephanie Cargile, the company’s authorities affairs supervisor in Baton Rouge, stated last week. “As well as to making direct penalty funds to DEQ, ExxonMobil will make donations to local non-profit organizations. ExxonMobil voluntarily identified several projects that will enhance the atmosphere of neighborhoods close to our operations.” She stated the company solicited enter last 12 months from neighbors and regulatory businesses–the East Baton Rouge Mayor’s Workplace of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, DEQ and the state’s Dept. of Natural Resources–to deal with neighborhood wants and supported their suggestions.

When it comes to funding, the highest four BEPs accredited below the settlement are $four hundred,000 for a Groundwater Discount Project to trim the corporate’s groundwater utilization; a $250,000 donation to DEQ to improve its Early Warning Organic Chemical Detection System; a $a hundred,000 donation to the East Baton Rouge Mayor’s Workplace of Homeland Safety and Emergency Preparedness/Local Emergency Planning Committee to implement the ExxonMobil North Baton Rouge Emergency Preparedness Initiative; and a $one hundred,000 donation to Rebuilding Together Baton Rouge for weatherproofing and air tightening of houses, particularly those subsequent to ExxonMobil amenities.

What’s the impetus for ExxonMobil to enhance its practices in Baton Rouge “The only part of the settlement that appears aimed 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, stated final week.

SPCC is a set of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules, implemented in 1973 and updated since then, to stop 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 said. “So that is like giving Exxon again $1 million to do with as they please.” The Bucket Brigade needs to try Exxon’s SPCCs. “We filed a public information request with DEQ, and Exxon has 60 days from finalization of the settlement on Jan. 9 to submit its SPCC to DEQ underneath our request,” she said. “After that, I am not sure how lengthy it’ll take for us to get it.”

Jean Kelly, DEQ spokeswoman, mentioned that beneath federal requirements existing SPCC plans at ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge complex include procedures, strategies, tools 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 past this requirement by having ExxonMobil give attention to its benzene storage tanks, since its spill occurred from a benzene storage tank, and to focus particularly on these tanks that comprise greater that 20 percent benzene,” she stated. Kelly was referring to the company’s June 14, 2012 benzene accident. Below the settlement, Exxon should improve benzene tank spill-detection and containment to scale back well being and environmental dangers, she said. The settlement’s benzene-tank requirements exceed federal rules.

“But having an SPCC on file doesn’t seem to do anything to forestall accidents at Exxon,” Hrybyk mentioned. “The company’s Baton Rouge advanced has the best accident price of refineries and related chemical plants in the state, and averaged nearly two accidents per week in 2012. And that was solely what they reported.” ExxonMobil doesn’t all the time tell the truth about its accidents, she mentioned, pointing to the corporate’s June 2012 benzene spill. “In response to DEQ’s penalty worksheet for that violation, Exxon waited fifty two hours before telling DEQ that over 31,000 pounds of benzene had leaked, natural gas companies georgia no credit check not 10 pounds as the company initially reported.”

Furthermore, “the money allocated for the Local Emergency Planning Committee and Rebuilding Together is not sufficient to enhance environmental health in the world, given Exxon’s frequent accidents,” Hrybyk said. “How are you able to weatherize properties with $100,000 for 59,000 folks residing within two miles of the plant That small amount is an insult to folks living close to the ability whose homes usually are not air tight.”

Hrybyk said sheltering in place in less-than-air-tight houses is risky during leaks because chemicals seep into homes and turn into trapped there. “Some of these chemicals are heavier than air, causing adversarial well being effects, and they’re particularly harmful for kids,” she said. When plants in Louisiana have accidents that emit chemicals, close by residents are usually ordered to shelter at house. Authorities say that keeps them out of smoke and hurt’s means.

In the settlement, Exxon additionally agreed to a $50,000 donation to the Baton Rouge Space Basis for groundwater-conservation awareness in East Baton Rouge Parish; a $50,000 donation to DEQ to fund the company’s Expanded Age Distribution and Automobile Population Knowledge Challenge on emissions in Louisiana; a $29,000 donation to the Louisiana Foundation for Excellence in Science, Know-how and Education, or LaFESTE, for the Baton Rouge Clear Air Coalition; a $25,000 donation to Baton Rouge Green Affiliation Inc.’s NeighborWoods challenge near the refinery; and $25,000 payment to install a meteorological station natural gas companies georgia no credit check at the company’s Baton Rouge refinery complex.

Cargile said the company’s BEP payments must be made within 60 days after the finalized settlement on Jan. 9. “The tasks, after all, might take longer to implement,” she mentioned.