Two oil refiners agree to reduce air pollution at 12 refineries

Jul 25, 2000 02:00 AM

Avoiding the threat of lengthy litigation, two major oil refiners have agreed to spend $ 580 mm to reduce air pollution at 12 refineries and pay $ 14.5 mm in penalties for past environmental violations, the government said. The agreements with the Environmental Protection Agency involve nine refineries owned by BP and three refineries owned by Koch Petroleum Group, which together account for about 15 % of the country's refining capacity. Koch is based in Wichita, Kansas.
Federal officials called the agreement, which avoids future enforcement actions and years of litigation, a major breakthrough that could lead to deals with other refiners to cut toxic and smog-causing air pollution.
EPA Administrator Carol Browner said three other refiners, representing another 20 % of the country's refining capacity, have indicated interest in similar voluntary pollution improvements to head off future EPA enforcement. She said the EPA was involved in an industry-wide review of refiners' compliance with air pollution rules.

Under the agreement, BP is expected to spend more than $ 500 mm on new pollution-control technologies at refineries in nine states, from California to Virginia, to reduce air emissions from stacks, valves, wastewater vents and during flaring. Koch Petroleum will invest a total of $ 80 mm at a refinery in Rosemount, Minnesota, and at two refineries at Corpus Christi, Texas, to make similar pollution reductions.
Browner said the agreement with the two refiners will lead to the installation of new pollution control technologies and new production procedures that, over the next eight years, will "ensure significant reductions in air pollution" -- as much as 56,000 tpy -- from the 12 facilities. Most of the pollution cuts will come in the next four years, according to the EPA. "We hope other companies will follow suit," said Browner, praising Koch for being the first company to approach the EPA last March about the voluntary settlement.
In addition to a commitment to new pollution controls, BP agreed to pay a $ 10 mm and Koch Petroleum $ 4.5 mm in penalties for past pollution violations, the EPA said. Browner said these were "company-wide penalties" that involved past violations. About $ 3.5 mm of the fines resolved a wastewater cleanup dispute at one of the Koch refineries, and the rest involved air pollution issues at the two companies, according government and company officials.

Jim Mahoney, executive vice president of operations for Koch Petroleum, said the agreement "is consistent with our efforts to reduce emissions" at the refineries and focus on developing cleaner fuels. "We had a choice to wait and have (the EPA) come to us, or take a proactive approach and see what we can do and come up with a win-win situation," said Mahoney.
The EPA estimated that the changes will reduce smog-causing nitrogen oxide and acid rain-causing sulphur emissions by nearly 50,000 tpy by 2004 and another 6,000 tpy by 2008 from the 12 refineries. Volatile organic compounds, which also contribute to smog, and toxic chemicals including benzene also will be reduced, the agency said.
About half of air pollution at refineries comes from evaporative releases, including leaks, and the other half from smokestacks. "This agreement signals our intent... to improve our environmental performance in manufacturing," Doug Ford, BP's refining and marketing CEO, said in a statement.

The BP refineries affected by the agreement are near Belle Chase, Louisiana; Los Angeles, California; Bellingham, Washington; Mandan, North Dakota; Salt Lake City, Utah; Toledo, Ohio; Texas City, Texas; Whiting, Indiana; and Yorktown, Virginia.

Source: AP
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