By RYAN TRACY
WASHINGTON -- Thirty companies have agreed to pay what the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) described as "modest" civil penalties for using fraudulent credits to meet a federal biofuel mandate.
The companies aren't accused of creating the fraudulent credits, which were traded under a system overseen by EPA. But they're on the hook because the agency's rules hold the buyer accountable.
The EPA is taking separate action against two companies accused of selling credits that didn't represent actual gallons of biofuel.
The settlement resolves violations of the Renewable Fuels Standard for companies such as ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, but it may not mean the end of the firms' financial burden for the invalid credits.
Companies who bought the fraudulent credits still must replace them with valid ones, meaning they may have to buy additional credits to make up the difference.
In all, as much as $49 million fraudulent credits are alleged to have been sold, and the EPA says it is investigating "credible leads" of further fraud that could reveal even more invalid credits.
ExxonMobil will pay $165,407 under the settlement, according to documents posted on EPA's website. ConocoPhillips will pay $250,000.
At least three other companies, including refiner Tesoro, received notices of violation but haven't settled with EPA.
Representatives of ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and Tesoro did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Dow Jones Newswires