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U.S. Oil and Refining Co. in Tacoma, Wash. settles with federal and local air authorities for Clean Air Act violations

Release Date: 02/01/2011
Contact Information: Hanady Kader, EPA Public Affairs, 206-553-0454, kader.hanady@epa.gov

(Seattle—Feb. 1, 2011) U.S. Oil & Refining Co. will pay a $230,000 fine for violations of federal air laws and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on voluntary projects to reduce environmental impacts, according to a consent decree entered jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Justice and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. The company owns and operates a petroleum refinery located on the tideflats in Tacoma, Washington.

“Petroleum refineries produce toxic emissions, so they must control environmental impacts and comply with the law,” said Jeff Kenknight, Manager of the Air Compliance Unit at EPA’s Seattle office. “These laws are in place to protect air quality and human health—this refinery is doing the right thing by upgrading its facility.”

The Tacoma refinery, which can process over 39,000 barrels per day, had a range of Clean Air Act violations between 1993 and 2006. The violations included failing to adequately report and track the benzene content in wastes from refinery operations in annual reports to EPA and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, and failure to repair and report leaking valves and pumps in a timely manner. 

Benzene is found in emissions from burning coal and oil, gasoline service stations, and motor vehicle exhaust. It is a known human carcinogen. Short-term exposure can cause respiratory and skin irritation.

"We face a number of clean air challenges in Tacoma," said Craig Kenworthy, Executive Director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. "Meeting them means that everyone, including large operations like U.S. Oil, must comply with the standards that protect the health of the people in our region."

As part of the settlement, the company will enhance its leak detection and benzene waste programs by making repairs when leaks are detected at levels lower than required by the regulations. It will also ramp up its monitoring of the quantities of benzene in the waste streams generated at the facility.

In addition to the fine, the company will spend $746,000 on upgrades to its facility to reduce other environmental impacts. These projects include controlling asphalt vapors that contain particulate pollution, a respiratory irritant and air pollutant.