Federal regulators and operators of the Big West Oil refinery in North Salt Lake have agreed to a settlement calling for installation of $18 million in emissions controls and payment of a $175,000 penalty for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.
The deal is the latest in a series of settlements with refineries nationwide that has allowed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to crack down on pollutants that contribute to summer and winter smog, as well as acid rain. The pollutants not only degrade the environment in general but cause health damage that is especially hard on the very young, the very old and people with heart and lung problems.
“EPA continues to secure significant settlements with refineries that benefit public health and improve air quality in our communities,” said Shaun McGrath, the top administrator in EPA’s Denver regional office. “Today’s agreement will help bring Big West Oil’s refinery up to date with industry standards to protect the environment.”
The consent decree, which must be finalized in federal court, also requires to spend $253,000 to beef up safety with better monitoring and management of hydrofluoric acid releases the site.
“We have appreciated EPA’s and the state’s willingness to work with us in finding workable methods for making the desired reductions,” the company said in an emailed statement. “The mutually agreed decree entered today will require Big West to spend tens of millions of dollars on pollution control equipment and procedures, and will result in significant reductions in emissions.”
In agreeing to the settlement, the company does not admit guilt.
The statement said Big West, an Ogden-based company that produces about 35,000 barrels a day of gasoline and diesel at its North Salt Lake refinery, is committed to responsible environmental stewardship, while providing great jobs for the state of Utah and supplying the fuel that runs our economy and benefits all of its citizens.”
The refinery will release a total of 226 tons less sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter each year, thanks to the agreement, said the EPA and the Justice Department, which announced the settlement jointly on Friday.
With the announcement of this settlement, all four of Utah’s major refineries are now covered by EPA agreements. The timing is good, because the plants are significant sources of pollutants like NOX and particulates that the state is trying to cut in order to meet federal pollution standards. The plan is overdue at EPA, and the Utah Division of Air Quality intends to submit a comprehensive cleanup plan by the end of the year.
The EPA’s refinery pollution crackdown
The Environmental Protection Agency has been taking a hard look at refineries since 2000. Since then:
The agency has signed 31 settlements with refiners that account for more than 90 percent of the nation’s petroleum refining capacity.
Companies and the EPA have reached agreements covering 107 refineries in 32 states and territories.
Refiners have promised to cut key pollutants by more than 360,000 tons per year.
Affected companies have pledged or installed more than $6.5 billion in new pollution controls.
The companies have paid more than $93 million in penalties.
Four of the five refineries straddling the Salt Lake/Davis County borders have signed consent decrees with EPA.