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History of DAS/NRDC Suit Against Motiva
Agreement Ends 12 Years of Lawsuits

Motiva, formerly Star Enterprises, agreed to a court settlement on January 27, 2000, in which the company will conduct a study of oil refinery waste-water pollution in the Delaware River. The suit was brought against Motiva by the Delaware Audubon Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The oil refinery was owned by Texaco Oil from 1984 to 1988. In 1988, the year DAS and NRDC brought the first suit, Saudi Aramco bought half interest and the name was changed to Star Enterprises. In 1998 they joined with Shell Oil in a refining venture that resulted in the name change to Motiva Enterprises. The refinery was originally owned by Tidewater and Getty.

Delaware Audubon Conservation Chair Grace Pierce-Beck called the settlement "a great day for environmentalism" in Delaware.

The settlement was to:

  • Provide regulators and the public with more information about pollutants released into the Delaware River on a daily basis.
  • Provide additional information on environmental damage caused by past spills and violations.
  • Help regulators improve controls at Motiva's waste-water plant near Delaware City.

The DAS-NRDC suit lingered for 12 years, and the courts ruled against Motiva/Star-Texaco four times. The company has paid over $2 million in court-assessed fines as a result of these suits. In a 1995 decision, the judge ruled that Texaco must not only measure the impacts of what they discharge into The Delaware River quantitatively but, most importantly, qualitatively.

In 1998, a judge ordered Motiva to comply with the 1995 court order. Motiva appealed that decision, but lost the appeal in 1999. In September of 1999, Delaware Audubon and NRDC filed motions in U.S. District Court to require Texaco to implement the court-ordered monitoring plan. The new settlement cut short that trial and resulted in Motiva's agreement to conduct the detailed montoring of its waste-water discharges.

Motiva has also been cited for numerous violations unrelated to the DAS-NRDC suits. The Wilmington (DE) News Journal reported that the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) gave Motiva a $210,000 penalty notice in July of 1999 for toxic emission and air pollution law violations. The newspaper also reported that DNREC has cited the Motiva refinery 17 times since 1989, for a total of more than $1.6 million in penalties. Most of those were air pollution violations, but the list also included hazardous waste violations and construction without permits.

Court Suit Chronology

1988, May – The Delaware Audubon Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a citizen suit against Texaco Refining and Marketing, Inc. for over 300 violations of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).

1989, August – In the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, Judge Jane Roth found Texaco violated wastewater discharge limits 369 times between March 1983 and January 1989.

1992, August – Judge Roth ruled in favor of Delaware Audubon and NRDC. Texaco was ordered to pay a penalty of more than $1.5 million.

1994, January – Delaware Audubon and NRDC informed Judge Longobardi that Texaco had violated its NPDES permit seven times. Five of the violations constituted contempt of the August 1992 and November 1993 orders of the court.

1994, May – Delaware Audubon and NRDC filed a contempt motion.

1994, December – A settlement agreement on the contempt motion was finalized. Texaco agreed to pay $361,000.

1995, April – Delaware Audubon and NRDC requested permission to file a motion to compel Texaco to comply with the monitoring requirement embodied in the U.S. District Court's orders in August 1992, and November 1993, requiring Texaco to determine the nature and impact of non-complying discharges from the Delaware City refinery.

1996, March – Judge Longobardi heard arguments on the above request of Delaware Audubon and NRDC. He granted the request.

1997 – Delaware Audubon and NRDC filed another motion for contempt against Texaco. This was settled out of court and penalties were paid.

1998, September – Judge Longobardi ruled Texaco must comply with court orders to do the monitoring program set forth by the court. Texaco appealed this to the Third Circuit Court.

1999, April – Trial held on the appeal in Philadelphia Third Circuit Court.

1999, May – Texaco lost the appeal. The Third Circuit Court ruled that Texaco must accept the monitoring program approved by Judge Longobardi.

1999, September – Delaware Audubon and NRDC filed motions to require Texaco to implement the court ordered monitoring plan and to clarify injunctions.

2000, January [At least temporarily] A Victory! – Motiva settled the September motions, agreeing to a monitoring program of its waste-water discharges and the environmental consequences of its previous discharges.


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Last modified on February 1, 2000.