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Chevron Phillips to pay $118M for upgrades, compliance measures to reduce air pollution at 3 Texas plants

The agreement is a resolution to the allegations that the company violated the Clean Air Act and state air pollution control laws at three facilities.
Credit: Chevron Phillips

PORT ARTHUR, Texas — Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. will pay approximately $118 million to make upgrades and perform compliance measures at three Texas petrochemical manufacturing facilities.

The agreement is a resolution to allegations that the company violated the Clean Air Act and state air pollution control laws at facilities in Cedar Bayou, Port Arthur, and Sweeney, Texas.

The company also agreed to pay a $3.4 million settlement that will eliminate thousands of tons of air pollution.

Chevron Phillips failed to properly operate and monitor its industrial flares, which resulted in excess emissions of harmful air pollution at the three facilities, according to the complaint filed.

Once the new measures are fully implemented, the pollution controls are estimated to reduce emissions including carbon dioxide, methane, and ethane, by over 75,000 tons per year.

"Port Arthur and these communities have been demanding assistance for years. It is good to see this kind of bold enforcement action,” said EPA Regional Administrator Dr. Earthea Nance.

The settlement is also expected to reduce emissions of ozone-forming volatile organic compounds by 1,528 tons per year and of toxic air pollutants, including benzene, by 158 tons per year.

“We are committed to reducing harmful air pollution from unnecessary and improper flaring, especially near overburdened communities with environmental justice concerns," said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The complaint says the company regularly “oversteamed” flares and failed to comply with other key operating measures to ensure the harmful air pollutants in the gases routed to the flares were efficiently combusted.

Research shows the pollutants addressed by the settlement can cause significant harm to public health.

Volatile organic compounds are a key component in the formation of smog and other pollutants that irritates the lungs, exacerbates diseases such as asthma, and can increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, according to a news release from the Environmental Protective Agency. Chronic exposure to benzene can also cause numerous health impacts, including leukemia and adverse reproductive effects in women, the EPS says.

“While the health impacts of Clean Air Act violations in Port Arthur, Cedar Bayou and Sweeny, Texas, cannot be reversed, this Consent Decree does provide for improvements at Chevron Phillips facilities that are located close to residential neighborhoods," Nance said.

Chevron Phillips agreed to take the following steps to minimize the waste gas sent to its flares at each facility.

  • At the Port Arthur and Sweeny facilities, Chevron Phillips will be required to amend its air quality permits to limit the flow of gas at selected flares. 
  • Chevron Phillips will create waste minimization plans for each facility that may further reduce flaring. 
  • For flaring that must occur, the agreement requires that Chevron Phillips install and operate instruments and monitoring systems to ensure that the gases sent to its flares are efficiently combusted.
  • Chevron Phillips will perform air quality monitoring that is designed to detect the presence of benzene at the fence lines of the three covered plants.
  • Monitoring results must be publicly posted, providing the neighboring communities with more information about their air quality. 
  • The monitoring requirements also include a trigger for root cause analysis and corrective actions if fence line emissions exceed certain thresholds.

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