The public comment period on the EPA settlement with Exxon is now open. The agreement involves reducing air pollutants at eight Exxon facilities — five in Texas and three in Baton Rouge.
"The company has agreed to install what we call 'flare gas recovery systems,'" the EPA's Patrick Foley explains. "These requirements will cost about $300 million to implement, but they’ll have significant reductions in air pollutants."
Foley says the improvements will keep 7,000 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 1,500 tons of other pollutants from being released into Texas and Louisiana air each year.
The settlement includes some Louisiana-specific penalties.
"The company will also pay a civil fine of $2.5 million, with $470,000 of that going to the state of Louisiana. They’ll also pay a $2.5-million amount to undertake supplemental environmental projects,” Foley says.
Louisiana DEQ Secretary Dr. Chuck Carr Brown says the settlement terms are providing a much-needed tool for keeping track of hazardous emissions.
"Our portion of that settlement is actually geared towards a beneficial environmental project, which includes the purchase of a mobile air monitoring lab," Brown states.
The lab is a van, equipped with sampling devices, spectrographic analysis equipment and computers that can calculate what's in the air, water or soil — on the spot. Carr says as soon as the settlement is finalized, DEQ will move forward on purchasing the lab.
"We’ve earmarked about $1.4 million for that particular lab," says Carr. "We’ve developed the specs, and a bid should be going out relatively soon.” He adds, "We actually expect to have that lab on site here in Louisiana by early second quarter of 2018 — the April-May timeframe of next year."
The EPA is taking public comments until Dec. 7, while DEQ's public comment period runs until Dec. 22.