Focus on Flares: ExxonMobil Agrees to Multi-Million Dollar Settlement

ExxonMobil, a company not afraid to fight the federal government (See last week’s Alert), has agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (“LDEQ”) over allegations of improper operation and inadequate monitoring of flares.

Federal and state regulators, as well as environmental groups, have increased their focus on flare operation and monitoring, identifying flares as presenting key ongoing air compliance issues.

Millions in Penalties, SEPs, and Upgrades

With this settlement, ExxonMobil will: (1) pay $2.5 million in civil penalty, of which $470,000.00 will go to LDEQ; (2) perform supplemental environmental projects (“SEPs”) in Texas and Louisiana, with projected costs in excess of $2.5 million; and 3) spend approximately $300 million to install and operate air pollution control and monitoring technology to reduce air emissions at eight petrochemical facilities from 26 industrial flares.

EPA’s allegations include that ExxonMobil made changes at its facilities that increased pollution from its flares, without modifying its air permits, and without demonstrating that the changes were in accordance with permits and rules.  EPA also alleges that ExxonMobil’s flares lacked required monitoring capability, and that ExxonMobil did not operate them in accordance with good air pollution control practice and other requirements.

Focus on Flares

According to the EPA’s news release regarding this settlement:

Flares are devices used to combust waste gases that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere during certain industrial operations. Well-operated flares should have high “combustions efficiency,” meaning they combust nearly all harmful waste gas constituents, like VOCs and hazardous air pollutants, and turning them into water and carbon dioxide.  The agreement is designed to improve Exxon’s flaring practices. First, it requires Exxon to minimize the amount of waste gas that is sent to the flares.  Second, Exxon must improve the combustion efficiency of its flares.

ExxonMobil has agreed to the settlement, without admitting to any wrongdoing.

For a copy of EPA’s news release on this settlement click here.

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