15 july 2013

State fines Exxon Mobil, others, for misrepresenting emissions

Debra Kahn, E&E reporter: Monday, July 15, 2013

California is fining nine companies for failing to report their greenhouse gas emissions accurately, including a $120,000 penalty on Exxon Mobil Corp.

The penalties are the first under a 2008 law that requires businesses that emit more than 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year to report their emissions to the state. About 600 facilities are covered by the law, which forms the emissions inventory that regulators use to allocate permits under the state's cap-and-trade system, which began earlier this year.

The nine companies that made reporting errors either missed deadlines, miscalculated fuel consumption or otherwise used inaccurate data or methods to count their emissions, according to the state agency that oversees the cap-and-trade program, the Air Resources Board. Emissions reports are due every April for industrial facilities, and every June for utilities, and are then checked by third-party verifiers before being published in the fall.

"The violations were found at the verification level," said Dave Clegern, an ARB spokesman. "The verifiers determined the data and/or methodologies used were inadequate."

The fines total $295,000, with Exxon Mobil paying the lion's share, at $120,000, for failing to use the best available information when calculating its 2011 emissions at its Torrance refinery. Oil, electricity, limestone and cement companies make up the rest of the violators, including biomass producer DG Fairhaven Power, which owes $55,000, and oil producer Vintage Production California, with $35,000. Others are Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Venoco Inc., Cemex Construction Materials, Lehigh Southwest Cement, lime producer Lhoist North America of Arizona and oil company Tidelands Production.

Exxon Mobil representatives said they were disappointed with the fine but decided to settle.

"We have been working cooperatively with the verifier and CARB to address the areas of concern in the 2011 emissions data," said public and government affairs adviser Gesuina Paras. "We are disappointed to have received a fine but have entered into a settlement agreement to resolve outstanding issues. We are working with CARB to identify the appropriate follow-up activities."

PG&E, which incurred a $20,000 fine, said it had submitted 13 greenhouse gas reports for 2011 but that verifiers were unable to check two of them until three days after the deadline. "We agreed to do two things: update our greenhouse gas monitoring plan and pay the penalty," said PG&E spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo.

Each day a company is late in submitting a report or has submitted inaccurate information can count as a separate $10,000 penalty, ARB said. Ninety-seven percent of emitters were in compliance with the reporting rule last year, it said.

"Accurate reporting of greenhouse gas emissions is the foundation of our efforts to reduce carbon pollution from the state's energy and industrial sectors," said ARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols. "We will continue to vigorously enforce the mandatory reporting rule to ensure that every company follows all its requirements."

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