Judge Rejects Exxon Bid To Halt Clean Air Suit
Houston – On June 7, 2011, United States District Court Judge David Hittner flatly rejected a motion by ExxonMobil Corporation and two subsidiaries to dismiss the Clean Air Act lawsuit filed against them by NELC attorneys on behalf of plaintiffs Environment Texas and Sierra Club.
The lawsuit alleges that thousands of violations of federal law at the nation’s largest oil refinery and chemical plant complex, located in Baytown, Texas, have resulted in more than eight million pounds of unlawful air pollution since 2005.
In its motion to dismiss, Exxon argued that state and federal regulators already oversee its facilities and that there are no “ongoing” violations. NELC attorneys were able to demonstrate, however, that violations continue, and that the government’s failure to stop them opens the door for citizens to enforce the law.
In fact, what Exxon failed to tell the court was that from April 12 to June 2, 2011, while its motion to dismiss the case was pending, a leaking pipe was spewing more than 50 tons of propylene – a chemical with a high propensity to form ground-level ozone, or smog – into the air, in violation of the Clean Air Act. Exxon delayed reporting the leak to government regulators until June 9, two days after its motion to dismiss for lack of “ongoing violations” was denied.
“Congress specifically allowed for citizen enforcement suits because some- times government agencies fall down on the job, and this case is a perfect example of that,” said Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas.
Judge Hittner’s denial of Exxon’s motion allows the case to continue toward trial.