Judge Says Suit Against ExxonMobil Over Baytown Pollution May Proceed

A lawsuit accusing ExxonMobil of violating the clean air act at its Baytown refinery is moving closer to trial. A federal judge has denied Exxon's request to throw out the lawsuit by two environmental groups. As David Pitman reports, Exxon claimed, among other things, that the groups don't have the legal standing to sue the oil giant.


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The Sierra Club and Environment Texas say ExxonMobil’s own records show that Exxon has broken pollution rules 2,500 times over a five year period at its refinery and chemical plant complex in Baytown.  Environment Texas director Luke Metzger accuses Exxon of..

“Pumping out more than eight million pounds of hazardous chemicals into our air, including known cancer-causing chemicals.”

Exxon argued in court that citizens’ groups can’t sue under the Clean Air Act, because state and federal organizations are the ones with that authority.  But on Tuesday, the judge sided with Metzger’s group.  He says this lawsuit is necessary, because neither the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality nor the Environmental Protection Agency will take action.

“Congress has clearly specified in the Clean Air Act that citizens have the right to sue to enforce the law, because sometimes government agencies fall down on the job.”

The case can now proceed to trial, though Metzger says he would welcome a settlement by Exxon.

“Our ideal settlement would be that they commit to make major reductions in these kinds of emissions.  We have previously settled with Chevron Phillips and Shell and got each company to commit to reduce their ‘upset’ emissions by over 80 percent.”

No one at ExxonMobil was willing to be interviewed.  The company said in a written statement that it has spent more than a billion dollars over the last decade to improve environmental performance at its Baytown facility.  Exxon says the investment resulted in a significant reduction in upset emissions related to maintenance.

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David Pitman

David Pitman

Host & Announcer

David was HPM's local Morning Edition host from 2009 to 2020 — when he was moved to the position of Technical Director of Houston Matters with Craig Cohen, and Town Square with Ernie Manouse. David has extensive public and commercial broadcast journalism and production experience dating back to 1993 –...

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