Bountiful • A new coalition of people determined to prevent the area's pollution woes from growing even with expansions planned at Utah's "refinery row" began to take shape Thursday.
Cecilee Price-Huish, president of the Davis County Community Coalition, organized the meeting at Bountiful City Hall. She opened and closed the meeting with calls to action.
"Air quality is not political," she said. "It is not partisan. It shouldn't be polarizing."
"The refineries are major, major players in emissions," Price-Huish said. "These are big expansions. We need to be involved."
The forum at Bountiful City Hall was sponsored by the coalition, the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Billed partly as an opportunity to learn about plans for the Holly, Tesoro and Chevron refineries, it largely focused on describing the variety of health and safety impacts caused by the pollution that is expected to increase if the refineries are successful in making the proposed changes.
Brian Moench, founder of the doctors' group, told the gathering that an environmental accident a spill, a fire, a leak had occurred every nine days over the past 10 years at one of the five refineries on the Salt Lake and Davis county lines.
Other members of the doctors' group discussed in detail how air pollution damages the heart, lung, brain and eyes.
In addition, the ongoing use of the extremely corrosive hydrofluoric acid poses a safety risk to as many as 1.1 million local people who live nearby, Moench said.
"These expansions are much like a bailout for the refineries paid for by increasing the risks to you and your family," Moench said. "The safety and environmental quality issues are all interconnected. These expansion plans should be suspended."
Tesoro Corp. already has submitted its application to the Utah Division of Air Quality to invest $180 million; public comments on the expansion will be accepted through April 23.
The San Antonio-based refiner is expected to increase processing capacity at its 58,000 barrels-per-day Utah facility by 7 percent, or an additional 4,000 barrels per day.
Meanwhile, HollyFrontier has said it will invest $225 million over the next two years to increase production by 45 percent at its Woods Cross refinery.
And Chevron has said it plans to spend $83 million on upgrades.
All three proposals are intended to help the refineries make use of the black-wax and yellow-wax crude oils produced in eastern Utah's Uinta Basin. And, according to the Sierra Club's Tim Wagner, the impacts of tapping into these energy sources will be felt by refinery row residents with the increased pollution.
Visitors could pick up contact sheets for political leaders, environmental regulators and media outlets at the door, and organizers urged them to reach out to them all.
In addition, the group outlined goals, including a no-net-air-pollution increase policy for the state, a health study on refinery impacts and more than the current once-a-year inspections at the refineries.