Baytown plant with troubled track record could receive up to $332 million from federal government to reduce emissions – Houston Public Media

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A photo taken this Friday, October 13, 2017, from Upper Galveston Bay shows the ExxonMobil Baytown Refinery and Chemical Plant in Baytown, Texas.  On Tuesday, October 31, 2017, federal officials announced that ExxonMobil would pay a $2.5 million civil penalty and commit to a clean air deal with the Trump administration by spending $300 million on pollution control technology at its factories along the Gulf Coast. announced that the violation of the law had been resolved. coast. Plants are located in the Baytowns of Beaumont and Mont Belvieu, Texas, and in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As part of the settlement, Exxon will spend $1 million to plant trees in Baytown.
A photo taken this Friday, October 13, 2017, from Upper Galveston Bay shows the ExxonMobil Baytown Refinery and Chemical Plant in Baytown, Texas.

The Baytown Power Plant, which has a history of federal air quality violations, could receive up to $332 million from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the National Decarbonization Initiative.

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Energy announced $6 billion in funding for 33 decarbonization projects across the country, including six projects specifically in Texas. One of those projects will allow the ExxonMobil Baytown olefins plant to “enable the use of hydrogen instead of natural gas” for ethylene production, with the goal of cutting the plant’s total emissions by more than half. A total of $31.9 million could be awarded.

But environmental advocates say they are skeptical. Luke Metzger, executive director of the Texas Department of Environmental Protection, said the hydrogen used by Exxon would likely be produced using natural gas, which would cut out even more plants and negate the benefits of the project. He said it would be.

“Ultimately, it could be devastating in terms of emissions impacts and further delay the transition to clean renewable energy,” Metzger said. “I’m concerned that this hydrogen plan is not really going to be a net positive for public health or the environment.”

Over the past several years, the Baytown plant has repeatedly violated federal standards. At least 12 separate inspections through May 2022 found several “high-priority” air quality violations, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website. A total of 25 violations were found over the past five years.

ExxonMobil operates a complex in Baytown that includes an olefins plant, chemical plant, and refinery. The ExxonMobil complex has had at least 60 total federal violations over the past five years, with serious violations resulting in at least $442,451 in fines, according to the EPA.

Additionally, an explosion at the ExxonMobil refinery in 2021 injured at least four workers and resulted in a $10 million lawsuit against the company. Another explosion occurred at the refinery in 2019, injuring more than 30 people.

Environment Texas was one of three environmental nonprofits that sued ExxonMobil in 2010 for multiple years of violations of the EPA’s Clean Air Act. The court dragged on the case for more than a decade, but ultimately ruled against Exxon in March 2021 and fined the company more than $14 million. Exxon is currently appealing this ruling.

ExxonMobil and the U.S. Department of Energy did not respond to requests for comment.

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