DEQ issues penalty and approves proposed settlement agreement with ExxonMobil

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Today, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality issued a penalty to ExxonMobil Corporation in the amount of $61,912.39 for violations associated with a June 14, 2012, steam-cracked naptha release at the Baton Rouge Complex. DEQ has also approved a proposed settlement agreement totaling $2,329,000 with ExxonMobil to resolve other violations which occurred between 2008-2013 at the Baton Rouge Refinery and three other facilities owned and/or operated by ExxonMobil Corporation in the Baton Rouge area. The proposed settlement agreement must be public noticed and reviewed by the Attorney General's Office before it can be finalized.

The settlement agreement, proposed by ExxonMobil and approved by the Department is a result of extensive negotiations between the parties. The proposed settlement includes a civil fine of $300,000 to the DEQ and Beneficial Environmental Projects (BEP) in the amount of at least $1,029,000. As part of the proposed settlement agreement, ExxonMobil must provide a plan to implement Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC), as well as improvements at the Baton Rouge Complex in the amount of at least $1 million. The goal of the SPCC improvement project is to prevent, minimize, and better manage spills occurring at ExxonMobil's Baton Rouge Complex. The proposed settlement agreement also contains stipulated penalty language to address future violations at the facilities listed in the proposed agreement.

A portion of the proposed BEP's funding will go to ReBuilding Together and to the Local Emergency Planning Committee to address some of the concerns that were expressed by local residents at a community meeting shortly after the June 14 release. ReBuilding Together is an organization which provides services to assist elderly, low-income homeowners in making their homes more air tight and energy efficient. The Local Emergency Planning Committee is an effort to enhance call out and dial down systems with regard to notifying area residents of a release and to promote awareness and preparedness for incidents and natural disasters.

Other proposed projects include: submittal of a plan for Groundwater Reduction Projects to reduce groundwater used by the facility; funding for improvements to the DEQ Early Warning Organic Chemical Detection System; funding to Baton Rouge Green for a NeighborWoods project; funding to the Louisiana Foundation for Excellence in Science, Technology and Education (LaFESTE) for air quality projects; funding for DEQ Air Quality Modeling project targeted at assessing vehicle emissions; funding to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation for groundwater resource awareness and water quality issues; and installation of a meteorological station at the Baton Rouge Complex to enhance incident reporting capability.

"It is a DEQ priority to address environmental releases," said DEQ Secretary Peggy Hatch. "DEQ encourages facilities to evaluate their systems and proactively make improvements that will prevent or reduce releases of excess emissions or pollutants into the environment. I believe the environmental projects proposed by ExxonMobil as part of this settlement will provide long-lasting environmental benefits for citizens residing and working in and around the Greater Baton Rouge area."