ExxonMobil Fined $600,000; We Think They Can Come Up With It

Let's be honest.

There aren't a lot of "bad days" for a global petrochemical company that made a record $45.2 billion profit last year, so we'll just say ExxonMobil had a less than stellar day on Wednesday when state regulators penalized it more than $600,000 for environmental crimes.

ExxonMobil's oil refinery and chemical plants in Baytown were responsible for $496,201 of the penalty and its Beaumont refinery accounted for the rest.

The penalty, finalized in Austin in an agreed order by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, covered 20 separate pollution cases against ExxonMobil, some dating back to 2005.

The violations cover unauthorized and excessive releases of hydrogen cyanide, benzene, carbon monoxide and a dozen or so other compounds used in the petrochemical industry.

In all but a few of the cases, the releases were "avoidable" because of poor operational practices, the environmental commission said.

ExxonMobil's facilities in Baytown and Beaumont have an "average" history of environmental compliance, in the view of the TCEQ, which frankly makes Hair Balls wonder exactly what an oil concern must do to rate a "poor" history.

Ah well.

As is the custom these days, half of the penalty assessed is set aside for an separate environmental project, but instead of the usual retrofitting of school buses and such, half of the penalty assessed against ExxonMobil's plant in Baytown will be spent to help operate, or possibly expand, the network of monitoring stations that measure and record concentrations of ambient air pollutants in Harris County.

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Steve Olafson