The Justice Department has secured a settlement with the chemical company Chevron Phillips to make upgrades at three of its Texas petrochemical plants amid allegations that it violated the Clean Air Act and state air pollution control laws.
Chevron Phillips is accused of failing to properly operate and monitor its industrial flares – a process by which certain industrial plants burn off harmful pollutants and greenhouse gas.
The settlement will require Chevron Phillips to install pollution control and emissions monitoring equipment at the three facilities in Cedar Bayou, Port Arthur, and Sweeney, Texas. The Justice Department estimated that Chevron Phillips will spend $118 million to resolve the allegations against the company to make the necessary upgrades and perform the compliance measures.
The company will also pay a $3.4 million civil penalty, according to the Justice Department.
“The pollutants addressed by the settlement can cause significant harm to public health,” the Justice Department said in a news release. “[Volatile organic compounds] are a key component in the formation of smog or ground-level ozone, a pollutant that irritates the lungs, exacerbates diseases such as asthma, and can increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis.”
The department also noted that persistent exposure to benzene — a carcinogen — can cause leukemia and affect reproductive health in women.
“Chevron Phillips Chemical strives to ensure compliance, especially regarding flaring, and we are fully committed to environmental stewardship,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement. “We are pleased to have this matter settled with the EPA and are making additional investments to proactively reduce our environmental footprint as part of our sustainability strategy. The safety of our personnel, customers and neighboring communities is a core value of our company and we remain committed to responsible environmental management.”
Officials from the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency announced during a call with reporters Wednesday that the newly implemented controls are estimated to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and ethane, by more than 75,000 tons per year.
Todd Kim, Assistant Attorney General of DOJ’s Environment and National Resources Division, noted that the communities surrounding the three plants in Texas “are disproportionately exposed to harmful pollutants and are at higher risk for cancer. This settlement permanently reduces the level of pollutants from the covered plants to which these communities will be exposed.”
“In addition to directly reducing emissions, the settlement gives these communities a new tool to help them be aware of the level of pollution coming from each plant,” Kim said. “Chevron Phillips will surround each facility with a system of monitors that will measure the level of benzene in the ambient air. This benzene data will be reported to the communities via publicly available website empowering them with knowledge that they can use in future discussions with Chevron Phillips and with regulators.”