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LyondellBasell draws Clean Air Act fines and wrongful death lawsuits

Compliance measures, penalties, and new potential liability could exceed $55 million

by Craig Bettenhausen
October 20, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 39


A photograph of a chemical plant.
Credit: LyondellBasell Industries
LyondellBasell’s La Porte, Texas, plant in 2016.

LyondellBasell Industries has agreed to install $50 million of emission control equipment and pay $3.4 million in fines to settle an enforcement action by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Separately, the family of a worker killed in a July 27 accident at a LyondellBasell facility is suing the company for $1 million.

The EPA complaint concerns 21 flares at LyondellBasell facilities in Iowa and Texas. The flares are intended to oxidize unrecoverable methane, ethane, and other hydrocarbons into CO2. The EPA says improper operation of the flares has led to emissions of particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, ozone, and other pollutants.

On some of the flares, LyondellBasell will install recovery equipment to capture the waste hydrocarbons instead of flaring them. The firm will also install monitoring and control equipment to ensure complete combustion, and it will perform and publicly disclose fence-line air quality measurements.

The settlement is a qualified victory for environmental advocates. “The fine seems low to me, given this covers six different facilities. However, the required pollution reductions are significant,” says Luke Metzger, executive director of the nonprofit Environment Texas.

LyondellBasell also faces a new lawsuit alleging negligence, gross negligence, and wrongful death after an accident at its LaPorte, Texas, plant—one of the sites included in the EPA action. The father of Shawn Kuhleman, one of the two workers killed, is seeking $1 million in damages. The family of the other deceased worker sued in August, and other employees claiming injuries have sued as well.



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