Chalmette Neighbors Travel to Dallas for ExxonMobil Shareholder Meeting

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(Dallas) In a bold move to protect themselves from mounting liabilities at ExxonMobil's Chalmette Refining, ExxonMobil shareholders are requesting that Lee Raymond, the company's CEO, step in and develop a compliance plan for the refinery. The request comes as neighbors from Chalmette Refining, armed with their own shares of ExxonMobil stock, head to Dallas for the meeting to elevate their concerns to the national level.

The community and shareholder actions, timed to coordinate with ExxonMobil's Annual General Meeting, bring attention to a facility that poses legal and financial liabilities to the corporation as a whole. The shareholder action intensifies the ongoing claims of the neighbors in Chalmette, who have long complained about poor operations at the facility. "These odors are obnoxious," says Kenneth Ford, President of the St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality. "All we want is for the refinery to clean up and follow the law. It's not too much to ask."

The shareholders are institutional stockholders who own thousands of shares of ExxonMobil stock. Among the dozen institutions requesting CEO action are Trillium Asset Management, Green Century Capital Management, and a number of religious bodies, including the Brethren Benefit Trust, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur - Ohio Province, the Adrian Dominican Sisters, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

The shareholder action focuses on Chalmette Refining's long history of violating the Clean Air Act and its growing legal liabilities. Among the concerns:

  • On February 3, 2005, in a partial judgment in a citizen lawsuit in federal court against Chalmette Refining, Judge Sarah Vance ruled that Exxon Mobil has violated the Clean Air Act on at least 34 separate occasions from 1999-2004.
  • In the decision, Vance stated: "plaintiffs' unrebutted evidence of repeated violations, including at least one that occurred after plaintiffs filed suit, demonstrates a real threat that Chalmette will continue to violate the Clean Air Act".
  • On April 26, 2005 plaintiffs in this lawsuit requested for summary judgment on an additional 2,622 violations and highlights Exxon Mobil's own reports to the state Department of Environmental Quality in which the refinery admits violating its permits and the law.
  • U.S. EPA currently considers Chalmette Refining a High Priority Violator of the Clean Air Act, and has considered it such since April 2003 (9 straight quarters).

Use of the deadly Hydrofluoric Acid is also a concern for the shareholders, as the deadly acid could harm a million people in the case of an accident or terrorist attack.

  • Chalmette Refining uses more hydrofluoric acid in its Alkylation processes than any other refinery in the country.
  • Other ExxonMobil facilities began shifting to alternatives, including ExxonMobil's own patented modified HF in the early 1990's.
  • In 2000, U.S. EPA recognized Chalmette Refining as one of the 123 most dangerous chemical plants in the country in its use of deadly chemicals - in a "worst case" release through accident or terrorist attack, the facility would endanger over 1 million people with a cloud of toxic gas.

Chalmette Refinery has been the source of local tension for years, with residents complaining about petroleum coke dust and foul odors from the facility. In the last year local and state politicians have begun to question the refinery, an unprecedented step in this oil dominated region. "Exxon's senior management needs to pay attention and spend some of their $25 billion in profits to clean up Chalmette Refining," said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. "This situation is spinning out of control."

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