A Texas judge has ordered ExxonMobil to pay nearly $20 million in fines after finding that one of the company’s chemical plants released millions of pounds of pollutants into the environment.
The ruling was part of a suit brought against the mega-corporation by Environment Texas and the Sierra Club in 2010. The groups argued that Exxon failed to implement technology to curb emissions at its facility in Baytown, Texas. Between the years of 2005 and 2013 Exxon gained more than $14 million in benefits by failing to follow provisions of the Clean Air Act.
Judge David Hittner sided with the environmental groups. His findings include the fact that Exxon illegally released more than 10 million pounds of pollutants between 2005 and 2013.
The final ruling found Exxon violated the Clean Air Act 16,386 times, with each violation carrying a fine of up to $37,500 per day. Judge Hittner fined the company $1.4 million for the pollution and $19.9 million for penalties, an amount that was proposed by the two plaintiffs.
Neil Carman, clean air program director for the Sierra Club released a statement saying:
“Today’s decision sends a resounding message that it will not pay to pollute Texas. We will not stand idly by when polluters put our health and safety at risk.”
Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, stated that he believes the ruling is “the largest penalty resulting from a citizen suit in U.S. history” and “It means that private citizens victimized by the world’s biggest polluters can get justice in the American court system, even when government regulators look the other way.”
Of course Exxon disagrees with the ruling and may appeal. The company told Reuters in a statement:
“We disagree with the court’s decision and the award of any penalty. As the court expressed in its decision, ExxonMobil’s full compliance history and good faith efforts to comply weigh against assessing any penalty.”