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WASHINGTON -- Exxon Mobil Corp. agreed to pay an additional $6.1 million penalty because it reneged on a promise to cut air pollution from four refineries in California, Louisiana and Texas, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
The payment stems from an agreement between the government and ExxonMobil in 2005—part of a broader push by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce air pollution from refineries—in which the oil company agreed to pay $14.4 million in civil penalties and community-related environmental projects, while also installing new air pollution controls at its refineries, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Government officials said Wednesday that Exxon Mobil violated the agreement by not adequately reducing smokestack sulfur pollution at the refineries as it had promised.
ExxonMobil said in a statement it identified the ongoing sulfur emission problem and brought the matter to the EPA's attention "Environmental impacts associated with this item were very minor," Prem Nair, a spokeswoman for ExxonMobil's offices in Fairfax, Va., wrote in an e-mail to the AP.
Nair said the emission problems have been corrected and the company now meets the required EPA standard at the refineries in Beaumont and Baytown, Texas; Torrance, Calif.; and Baton Rouge, La.
The Justice Department, however, saw the matter as a bit more serious.
"The Department of Justice will not tolerate violation of our consent decrees," Assistant Attorney General Ronald Tenpas said in a statement. "The significant penalty in this case shows that noncompliance with settlement requirements will have serious consequences."
The 2005 agreement was one of a number of settlements that covered companies and refineries nationwide. To date, the EPA said 95 refineries in 28 states, accounting for 86 percent of the country's refining capacity, have installed additional emission controls as part of the 2005 settlement or agreements patterned on it.
ExxonMobil’s two refineries in Joliet, Ill., and Billings, Mont., while part of the original settlement, were not involved in the latest penalty, according to the AP.
In related environmental news, travel plaza operator Flying J was ordered to pay $140,000 for water pollution violations, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller stated Thursday.
The Flying J travel plazas in Davenport and Clive, Iowa, were ordered to pay the fine by Polk County District Court Judge Artis Reis, the AP reported.
Miller filed a lawsuit Monday outlining environmental violations and unpaid citations at the two locations, including a March 2007 incident at the Clive location that polluted Walnut Creek. A settlement agreement was filed simultaneously.
Miller said the Davenport Flying J also is the subject of numerous administrative enforcement actions by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Flying J is one of the largest retailers of diesel fuel in North America, with approximately 220 locations in the United States and Canada.