The U.S. Justice Department and EPA announced Friday an agreement with Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC that is expected to reduce air emissions from seven petroleum refineries by more than 23,000 tons per year.
The Bush administration, criticized in recently by environmentalists for abandoning several environmental rules, said the settlement is part of EPA''s national effort to reduce harmful air pollution released from refineries.
Under the agreement, Marathon Ashland will spend an estimated $265 million to install up-to-date pollution control equipment and significantly reduce emissions from stacks, wastewater vents, leaking valves and flares through its refineries in Robinson, Ill.; Garyville, La.; Texas City, Texas; Catlettsburg, Ky.; Detroit; Canton, Ohio; and St. Paul Park, Minn.
These refineries comprise more than five percent of the total refining capacity in the United States.
"This settlement will control pollution wherever it originates in the refineries," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "The settlement also is expected to facilitate efficiency upgrades and increased production of gasoline over the next eight years. We are pleased with Marathon Ashland''s commitment to work with us to help clean the air and protect human health."
The agreement resolves past violations of the Clean Air Act New Source Review requirements, which result when facilities fail to apply for permits and install up-to-date pollution controls when they undertake certain types of modifications.
Marathon Ashland also will pay a $3.8 million civil penalty under the Clean Air Act and spend about $6.5 million on two environmental projects in communities affected by the refineries'' pollution.
The states of Minnesota and Louisiana will each receive $50,000 of the penalty under the agreement, which also resolved alleged violations of federal hazardous waste laws at the company''s refineries in Michigan and Illinois.
According to EPA, the new control technologies and programs that will be implemented at Marathon Ashland''s refineries will reduce pollutants that can cause serious respiratory problems and exacerbate cases of childhood asthma: nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate emissions, carbon monoxide, benzene and volatile organic compounds.
The agreements also should lead to a substantial reduction in the number and severity of flaring incidents and should ensure the refineries'' compliance with national emissions standards for benzene waste and with leak detection and repair equipment, EPA said.
In March, the government reached similar agreements to cut air pollution at nine other refineries across the country.
Those settlements involved Motiva Enterprises, Equilion Enterprises and Deer Park Refining Limited Partnership.
Together, these settlements will help to reduce air emissions by nearly 150,000 tons per year.
by Virginia Sutcliffe