EPA Reaches Clean Air Settlement With Petroleum Refiner

An agreement was reached with the Premcor Refining Group Inc.\r\nthat will significantly reduce harmful air pollution, including more\r\nthan 4,700 tons of sulfur dioxide annually.

An agreement was reached with the Premcor Refining Group Inc. that will significantly reduce harmful air pollution, including more than 4,700 tons of sulfur dioxide annually, from Premcor''s petroleum refinery in Hartford, Ill.

A consent decree filed last week calls for Premcor (formerly Clark Refining and Marketing) to install new pollution control equipment, at a cost of up to $20 million, to decrease emissions of sulfur dioxide and particulate matter.

Premcor also will install state-of-the-art burners on certain heaters and boilers to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides.

These air pollutants can cause serious respiratory problems and exacerbate cases of childhood asthma.

St. Louis-based Premcor also will pay $2 million in civil penalties under the Clean Air Act, of which $1.2 million will go to the United States and $800,000 will go to the state of Illinois.

EPA and Illinois alleged that Premcor made major modifications to its Hartford refinery -- increasing its production capacity and its air emissions --without installing the pollution control equipment required by the Clean Air Act''s new source review requirements.

"This settlement will reduce harmful air pollution and send a message to other companies. Keeping our air clean must be a priority and must be viewed as a fundamental responsibility. The Bush administration will enforce vigorously our environmental laws to protect public health and our precious environment," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.

Premcor''s Hartford refinery processes heavy, "sour" crude oil, which has a high sulfur content.

The settlement calls for the company to install a wet gas scrubber on the fluid catalytic cracking unit -- generally, the largest point of emissions at refineries --to control the emissions of sulfur dioxide and particulate matter.

EPA said the steps Premcor will take under the settlement will reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide by more than 4,700 tons, emissions of particulate matter by 630 tons, and emissions of nitrogen oxides by 270 tons each year.

Under the settlement, Premcor also has agreed to undertake several environmental projects and pollution reduction measures, such as discontinuing the use of fuel oil in heaters and boilers, and undertaking practices designed to reduce flaring from the refinery''s coker.

"Working together with the state of Illinois, we have developed an agreement that means cleaner air for the community near the refinery and for those who live downwind," said John Cruden, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department''s Environment Division.

The settlement is similar to recent agreements that the United States has reached with petroleum refiners including the Koch Petroleum Group, BP Amoco, Motiva Enterprises, Equilon Enterprises and, most recently, Marathon Ashland Petroleum.

The terms of these agreements give the companies the operational and design flexibility to increase their production while complying with Clean Air Act rules.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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