FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2004
ENRD (202) 514-2007|
EPA (214) 665-2200
TDD (202) 514-1888
CHEVRON PHILLIPS TO PAY $1.8 MILLION CIVIL PENALTY
FOR EXPLOSIONS AT PASADENA, TEXAS CHEMICAL PLANT
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced they have reached a settlement with Chevron Phillips Chemical Company in which the company will pay a $1.8 civil penalty for Clean Air Act violations that led to two explosions and releases of chemicals into the air from a chemical manufacturing plant in Pasadena, Texas in 1999 and 2000. This is the largest civil penalty ever assessed for a case of this type.
In the complaint filed simultaneously with the consent decree, the U.S. alleged that Chevron Phillips, and/or its predecessor Phillips Chemical Company, failed to exercise sufficient care to prevent and address accidental releases of chemicals at the Pasadena Plastics Complex, a plastic resin and specialty chemical manufacturing facility. Two accidental explosions occurred, in June 1999 and March 2000, releasing 1,3 butadiene and other chemicals into the air and causing three deaths and injuries to almost 100 workers at the facility. Chevron Phillips acquired the facility from Phillips Chemical Company shortly after the second explosion and has worked to improve the facility’s safety precautions.
“This is a great result for public health, the environment and worker safety,” said Thomas Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement is a significant further step in accomplishing one of the Attorney General’s primary environmental enforcement goals-protection of the nation’s infrastructure and people from the serious harm that can result from releases of hazardous industrial chemicals into the air,” Sansonetti added.
The settlement filed in the federal court in Houston, Texas, requires Chevron Phillips to follow extensive work practice requirements designed to ensure that the facility is operated in the future in a manner that prevents accidental releases of chemicals. For the past violations, Chevron Phillips will pay a record $1.8 million civil penalty.
In addition, Chevron Phillips will perform two Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEP) at a cost of at least $1.2 million. The first project requires Chevron Phillips to buy and arrange for the installation of a fuel cell to provide electricity for the operation of Moody Gardens, a non-profit conservation, education, and research institution. The fuel cell will operate on natural gas or on methane gas extracted from the wastewater sludge generated at Moody Gardens. This project will reduce the use of electricity from the grid in the Houston/Galveston non-attainment area and Moody Gardens’ boilers, resulting in an annual emissions reduction of approximately 20 tons per year of nitrogen oxides. The second project requires Chevron Phillips to purchase hazardous material equipment and provide hazardous materials training to the Pasadena Volunteer Fire Department.
EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene said, “Careful compliance with our nation’s environmental laws helps ensure we do business safely, responsibly, and for generations to come. EPA will continue to work with Chevron Phillips and the regulated community to ensure that accidents like these are not repeated.”
“Everyone has a personal interest in the quality of the air we breathe,” said Michael Shelby, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. “Today’s settlement illustrates our unwavering commitment to the protection of our environment through aggressive action against industrial polluters.”
The consent decree lodged today is now subject to a 30-day public comment period.