Clean-air advocates attack refinery expansion
Energy • Tesoro’s plans are on track to win state approval.
Published: April 18, 2012 07:39AM
Updated: April 18, 2012 03:25PM
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Tribune file photo Tesoro is Utah’s largest refinery. Getting away from fossil fuels in your portfolio can prove tricky.

Critics and supporters of Tesoro’s plans to expand its Salt Lake City refinery sounded off Tuesday at a public hearing.

Led by the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and Utah chapters of the League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club, the critics showed up in force in hopes of persuading the state Division of Air Quality to reconsider its decision to sign off on the expansion. Otherwise, they said, big polluters will certainly make bad air quality even worse, causing more asthma, heart attacks, early death and other harm.

“I’m not willing to give up my grandma 10 years early so that you can drive your cars and make more gasoline, or so that people in Las Vegas can get their cars filled up with gas,” said Raphael Cordrayto the regulators. “If it was your child that was going to have asthma, would you say, ‘I’ll sacrifice my child so that Tesoro can expand?’ I don’t think so.”

But supporters showed up too, including Dan Cameron, who spoke with pride about the company’s history, work force and environmental and safety records.

“Simply said, we live here, we work here; we add value to the state of Utah’s economy,” said Cameron, retired manager of the refinery.

“We care and we are responsible stewards of our refinery. We are proud American workers who work for an American company that buys an American product, adds value to it and produces a finished product for American consumers.”

State regulators signaled their “intent to approve” the expansion earlier this year after reviewing the refinery’s plans in detail.

Tesoro is Utah’s largest refinery, and like Holly’s refinery in Woods Cross, it is updating its facilities to process greater volumes of two types of oil from the Uinta Basin, called black wax and yellow wax.

Tesoro says the modifications will yield an increase of 4,000 barrels a day at its 58,000-barrel-a-day facility. The company also says the changes “will not result in a significant emissions increase” and will even reduce sulfur emissions by nearly 8 percent, about 66 tons per year.

The biggest increase in emissions would be from volatile organic compounds, a key contributor in Utah’s summer and winter pollution problems. VOCs, as they are called, would increase by nearly 16 percent, the company has reported.

State regulators say, under state law, they cannot force a reduction in emissions under this permit application, because the refinery would be operating well under its allowed pollution levels even with the equipment changes. In this round of review, regulators say they must only consider the equipment Tesoro is proposing to install over the next two years.

Meanwhile, Tesoro is one the 37 facility operators currently talking with regulators about ways to cut emissions as part of a particulate pollution plan required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before the year’s end.

“Clearly, we need reductions from all [pollution] sources to meet these requirements,” said Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality.

fahys@sltrib.com

Twitter: @judyfutah

To learn more:

P The Utah Division of Air Quality has posted information about the Tesoro application and how to weigh in on those plans during the public comment period that continues through April 23. › http://bit.ly/J9UBew