Fifth Circuit Hears Exxon Appeal of $20M Penalty

Attorneys for ExxonMobil, Environment Texas and the Sierra Club went back before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday as the oil giant tries to overturn a $20 million penalty for violating the clean air act at its Baytown facility.

Exxon's attorneys want the judgement reduced to just $1.5 million, saying environmentalists only proved 40 days worth of pollution -- not 16,000 days as claimed in the lawsuit.

“They don't dispute that there was 16,000 violations, they dispute whether we have the right to sue them over all 16,000,” says Luke Metzger,executive director of Environment Texas.

“These emissions come from what are called 'upset' events,” he says.“Basically these are equipment fails or an operator makes a mistake, things that are largely preventable by better investment in equipment, better training or more personnel.”

The good news says Metzger, it appears Exxon has fixed the problem.  “We sued in 2010, and in addition to the $20 million penalty, their emissions have come down.”

An Exxon spokesman previously said, "As the court expressed in its decision, ExxonMobil's full compliance history and good faith efforts to comply weigh against assessing any penalty." 

A ruling on Exxon's appeal is not expected for several months.

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