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Exxon to Upgrade Plants in Clean-Air Settlement

October 12, 2005|From Associated Press

Exxon Mobil Corp. will spend an estimated $571 million for pollution controls at seven oil refineries, including its Torrance plant, in a settlement over alleged violations of clean air laws, the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.

The world's largest publicly traded oil company also will pay fines totaling $8.7 million and spend $9.7 million to retrofit city buses, restore coastal habitat in Louisiana and sponsor other environmental projects around the refineries. The settlement aims to reduce annual emissions of toxins that can cause respiratory problems and worsen cases of childhood asthma, the federal agencies said.

The refineries covered in two consent decrees filed in federal courts in Chicago and Lafayette, La., represent 11% of the nation's refining capacity.

Under the settlement, annual emissions of acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide are to be cut by 42,000 tons and those of smog-forming nitrogen oxides are to be reduced by 11,000 tons. Improvements also are required for detecting leaks, minimizing the flaring of hazardous gases, cutting pollution from sulfur recovery plants and handling benzene wastes.

Exxon Mobil, based in Irving, Texas, agreed to the settlement without the government filing suit so that it could expand fuel production in compliance with the Clean Air Act.

Three states that joined in the settlement -- Illinois, Louisiana and Montana -- will share the civil penalties.

Prem Nair, a spokeswoman for Exxon Mobil, said the settlement "is in the best interest of the company and supports the continued trend of emission reductions" at its refineries. Exxon Mobil denied any claims that it violated any laws or regulations.

In addition to the Torrance refinery, the other facilities are in Texas, Louisiana, Illinois and Montana.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a Saudi Arabian oil concern called Saudi Basic Industries Corp. that has been trying to overturn the bulk of a $417-million judgment it was ordered to pay Exxon Mobil after a joint venture between the two fell apart.

Shares of Exxon Mobil rose 90 cents to $59.40.

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