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Big West Oil to spend $18M on emission controls to resolve Clean Air Act violations at North Salt Lake refinery

Release Date: 08/23/2013
Contact Information: Sheldon Muller, 303-312-6916 Richard Mylott, 303-312-6654

Company to reduce harmful sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions and improve chemical monitoring

(Denver, Colo. -- August 23, 2013) Big West Oil LLC has agreed to pay a $175,000 penalty and to spend approximately $18 million to install emission controls at its refinery in North Salt Lake, Utah, announced the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today. Big West Oil will also invest $253,000 to improve the monitoring and management of potential releases of hydrofluoric acid at the facility.

Today’s agreement resolves alleged violations of key provisions of the Clean Air Act at the refinery, including requirements associated with the Prevention of Significant Deterioration and New Source Performance Standards.

When fully implemented, the controls and requirements under the agreement will reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) by approximately 158 tons per year (tpy), nitrogen oxides (NOx) by approximately 32 tpy, and particulate matter (PM) by approximately 36 tpy. Additional reductions of volatile and hazardous pollutants, such as benzene, are expected as a result of compliance with leak detection and repair requirements.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides contribute to ground-level ozone, acid rain, and the degradation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and can also irritate the lungs and contribute to respiratory illnesses. Fine particle pollution contains microscopic solids and liquid droplets that can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause significant lung and heart damage.

“This settlement will result in substantial reductions in harmful air pollution and, building on previous settlements with area refineries, marks another step forward in improving the quality of air Utahns breathe in the Salt Lake City area,” said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Big West Oil will be required to install advanced technology pollution controls that will benefit the health and environment of its neighbors and future generations.”

“EPA continues to secure significant settlements with refineries that benefit public health and improve air quality in our communities,” said Shaun McGrath, EPA’s Regional Administrator in Denver. “Today’s agreement will help bring Big West Oil’s refinery up to date with industry standards to protect the environment.”

Today’s settlement requires Big West Oil to install a state-of-the-art flue gas filter system to control emissions of PM and to place ultra-low NOx burners on four heaters and boilers. The company will also undertake measures to reduce SO2 emissions from the refinery by, among other things, restricting hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in fuel gas and installing and operating a caustic scrubber system at the sulfur recovery plant.

Additionally, Big West Oil has agreed to make numerous upgrades to its leak detection and repair program, including the installation of low-leaking valves, and to enhance its waste operations to minimize or eliminate fugitive benzene emissions. The cost of the measures to be taken by the refinery is estimated at $18 million.

In addition, the company will spend $253,000 on a supplemental environmental project to install a laser detection system around the perimeter of the Hydrofluoric Acid Alkylation Unit that will improve the detection and response to releases of potentially hazardous acid. This system will reduce emissions and enhance safety for refinery workers and nearby communities.

The reduction in pollutants will benefit communities near the refinery, which include significant minority and low-income populations. The refinery is also located in an area designated as nonattainment for the federal 24-hour standard for fine particles (PM2.5).

Under the PSD permitting requirements, certain large industrial facilities making modifications that increase air pollutant emissions are required to install state-of-the-art air pollution controls. EPA investigations in various industries, including petroleum refining, reveal that many facilities fail to install pollution controls after modifications, causing them to emit pollutants that can impact air quality and public health. The Clean Air Act’s New Source Performance Standards require additional control measures at refineries. Enforcing these requirements reduces air pollution and ensures that facilities that are complying with the requirements are not at a competitive disadvantage.

Since March 2000, the EPA has entered into 31 settlements with companies that refine greater than 90 percent of the domestic petroleum refining capacity. These settlements cover 107 refineries in 32 states and territories. Once the settlements are fully implemented, the companies will have reduced emissions of NOx, SO2, and other pollutants by more than 360,000 tons per year. The settling refiners have invested or will invest more than $6.5 billion in new pollution control technologies and have paid more than $93 million in penalties. In addition, the settlements reached to date account for more than $80 million in supplemental environmental projects.

The consent decree was lodged in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice website at: www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

For more information on the Clean Air Act: www.epa.gov/air/caa/