After being ruled out in 2014, the environmental groups’ complaint on the Baytown ExxonMobil refinery was now taken again into consideration, and the US District Judge decided that the environmentalists were, in fact, correct.
The two environmental groups celebrated on Tuesday the win of the appeal, and they further plan to ask $650 million in penalties.
The appellate court announced its decision and sent the case back to the judge in order for him to decide the penalties that will have to be paid by the oil giant.
Following the appeal, ExxonMobil will be made liable for thousands of accidents involving the release of pollutants in the air.
The Baytown industrial complex is located in Texas, near the Houston Channel. The complex has a total surface of 5 square miles and is composed of two petrochemical plants and includes one oil refinery which is the second largest in the US. The complex was first commissioned in 1919, and it has become the largest employer in the city.
Over the years, studies have shown that leukemia rates were 56% higher in children living within two miles of the Houston Ship Channel. Residents in the proximity of the refinery have continuous symptoms of nausea, headaches, coughing and asthma.
By delaying the investments needed to avoid pollution releases, the company is said to have obtained economic benefits of almost $11.7 million.
“After six years of litigation against one of the state’s biggest polluters, justice has finally been served. The appeals court ruling confirms that even the world’s most powerful corporations must be held accountable when they violate our environmental and public health laws,” said the director of Environment Texas.
As the government refused to take any action, in 2010 Sierra Club and Environment Texas decided to take the matter to court. They filed the suit under a provision of the Clean Air Act and raised the problem of 5,000 tons of toxins released by Exxon refinery over a period of eight years.
The two environmental groups said that most of the incidents are avoidable, but the industrial company refused to take any measures in order to prevent their occurrence.
However, ExxonMobil representatives argued that operations of the refinery are under strict control. They also declared that the company invested millions of dollars in devices that would reduce pollution.
The industrial company tried to prove to the court that it acted in good faith and undertook the necessary amendments after the pollution question was first raised, and therefore civil penalties will not be justified.
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