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Zainab Calcuttawala

Zainab Calcuttawala

Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…

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Appeals Court Overturns Exxon Decision in Favor of Greens

Federal appeals judges sided with environmental groups over ExxonMobil in a case regarding pollution from the oil giant’s refinery in Baytown, Texas.

The plaintiffs – The Sierra Club and Environment Texas – filed the suit in 2010 regarding “thousands” of pollution violations, according to the Energy Voice.

Two years ago, a Houston-based federal judge said Exxon was not liable for the damages caused by the violations, but the judges presiding over the appeal unanimously found the company guilty.

Related: Why We Need $120 Oil

U.S. District Could Judge David Hittner “erred in his analysis of Exxon’s liability” and “abused his discretion” by refusing to penalize Exxon for violations it had already admitted to, according to the majority opinion.

“This is huge news. We took on the world’s biggest energy company,” Luke Metzger of Environment Texas, told reporters in front of the downtown Houston courthouse. “We think this is great news for anyone downwind of polluting facilities.

“The appeals court ruling confirms that even the world’s most powerful corporations must be held accountable when they violate our environmental and public health laws,” the activist added.

The Baytown facility - the largest refinery in the United States – experienced roughly 4,000 pollution violations, averaging out to more than one incident a day, court documents said.

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The appeals court judges also opined on Exxon’s intentions regarding four new environmental improvement projects it had been working with regulators to implement.

“We think it is possible that the agreement between Exxon and the [Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] is a sterling example of regulatory capture at its worst,” the opinion read. “However, it is also entirely possible that Exxon’s explanation for pursuing the agreement—that it wanted more “certainty” in enforcement—is valid and that the company did want to take good-faith steps towards reducing future compliance issues.”

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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