Tesoro Corporation and Par Hawaii Refining have reached a $425-million settlement with the U.S. government that resolves numerous Clean Air Act violations and introduces a plan to drastically reduce air pollution at six refineries across the western U.S.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly announced the settlement Monday, saying that the bulk of the settlement — $403 million – would go toward the installation and operation of pollution control equipment at refineries in Kenai, Alaska; Martinez, Calif.; Kapolei, Hawaii; Mandan, N.D.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Anacortes, Wash.
Each year, these improvements at the six refineries will reduce air pollution by an estimated 773 tons of sulfur dioxide, 407 tons of nitrogen oxides, 1,140 tons of volatile organic compounds such as benzene, 20 tons of hydrogen sulfide, 47,034 tons of carbon dioxide, and 27 tons of other hazardous air pollutants.
A large number of the emissions reductions will benefit areas with unusually poor air quality, protecting local populations currently at risk for respiratory distress and other illnesses. According to the federal agencies, the refinery improvements will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from flaring alone by more than 60 percent.
Leaks, flares, and excess emissions from oil refineries emit hazardous air pollutants that are known or suspected to cause cancer, birth defects, and seriously impact the environment. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) have numerous adverse effects on human health and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog, and haze. Refineries also emit greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
Additionally, the refineries emit giant volumes of fugitive volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from leaking pumps and valves. These compounds can result in numerous health problems, including eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, and damage to liver, kidney, and the central nervous system, among other effects.
“This settlement … will benefit the air quality in communities across the Western United States,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “It uses cutting edge technology to address global environmental issues like climate change by controlling flaring and provides important reductions of harmful air pollution in communities facing environmental and health challenges.”
According to the Justice Department, $12 million of the settlement will fund environmental projects in the communities affected by pollution from the refineries. The remaining $10.45 million is a civil penalty for Clean Air Act violations, which will be shared among the federal government, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Northwest Clean Air Agency.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice