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The Cost Of Environmental Damage: Refineries, Pesticide Manufacturer Pay Out $150 Million In Recent Settlements Of Separate Suits

While the Gulf Oil Spill has communities and government agencies focusing on mitigation and prevention, not to mention restitution, the United States is joining with states around the country to ensure that environmental laws are being enforced for everyday actions. In the past several weeks, the LexisNexis Jury Verdicts and Settlements staff has noted the settlement of two large environmental cases. The most recent settlement involved clean water claims brought by various municipalities in the Midwest against pesticide manufacturer, Syngenta, with the other action involving federal clean air enforcement claims against the Hess Corporation.  

The Clean Air Act imposes several burdens on industry, requiring permits for major modifications as well as establishing emissions limits. While transgressions may be relatively minor, in and of themselves, they do add up. And the U.S. Department of Justice has remained active in enforcement. Several recent cases have led to settlements that require companies to pay civil penalties but more importantly to stop violating the Clean Air Act by complying with the statute and regulations and by bringing facilities into compliance. 

On April 25, 2012, the United States lodged a consent decree regarding a settlement with the Hess Corporation for a New Jersey refinery. The United States had filed the complaint just a few days prior, alleging that the refinery was violating the Clean Air Act as well as the New Jersey Air Pollution Control Act. The violations allegedly ranged from major modifications without obtaining necessary permits to exceeding emissions limits regularly for various chemicals. Hess Corporation agreed to pay $850,000 civil penalties, which would be split between the United States and New Jersey, but, perhaps more importantly, it agreed to spend more than $45 million in new pollution controls. See 2012 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 4836

On May 30, 2012, the City of Greenville, Ill., and other municipalities in the Midwest reached a $105 million settlement with Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. and Syngenta AG relating to pesticides manufactured by Syngenta. The plaintiffs had filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, claiming that Syngenta's pesticide products contained the chemical atrazine, which migrated into groundwater around the region. Plaintiffs claimed that the chemical was known to be harmful to the public and was costly to remove from their public water sources.  The suit, which included tort claims rather than environmental statutory law, was filed to recovery the increasing cost burden of removing the water contamination. See 2012 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 6423.  

For other recent litigation relating to the other environmental claims and the Clean Air Act, see 2012 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 3903 ($460,000 Settlement with Michigan Refinery), 2012 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 3944 (California Landfill Operator To Pay $200,000 In Penalties), 2012 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 3601 ($1,445,000 Settlement With Kansas Refinery), 2012 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 3142 (Settlement Reached with Kentucky Utilities Company), 2012 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 3416 ($600,000 Settlement Reached with Minnesota Manufacturer) and 2012 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 2561 ($1.4 Million Settlement Reached with Ohio Chemical Company). 


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