Refiner Settles Emissions Case in Utah

Monday, November 23, 2015 @ 03:11 PM gHale

HollyFrontier Corp. subsidiaries reached a settlement over Clean Air Act violations regarding fuel quality emissions standards and testing requirements at three HollyFrontier facilities, federal officials said.

Under a consent decree lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, HollyFrontier will implement a mitigation project at its refinery in Salt Lake City to offset past emissions, and pay a $1.2 million civil penalty to the United States.

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HollyFrontier Corporation subsidiaries include HollyFrontier Refining & Marketing LLC, Frontier El Dorado Refining, LLC, Holly Refining & Marketing Company-Woods Cross, LLC, and Navajo Refining Company, LLC.

“Fuel emissions standards help safeguard our nation’s air quality and public health,” said Cynthia Giles, EPA assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement not only means cleaner air for communities around Salt Lake City, it helps ensure a level playing field for fuel refiners that follow the law.”

“This agreement will benefit public health by requiring retrofits of storage tanks at HollyFrontier facilities that will reduce volatile organic compound emissions and use next generation technology to verify these reductions,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement shows that fuel refiners can and must meet the nation’s standards for controlling the emissions that cause ground level ozone and serious health problems for Americans.”

The Clean Air Act requires fuel refiners to ensure the conventional gasoline they produce meets volatility standards, referred to as Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) standards. As gasoline evaporates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) release, which react in sunlight to form low-level ozone. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion, and can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. VOCs also include a wide variety of hydrocarbons, some of which are hazardous air pollutants such as benzene, toluene, xylene and ethyl benzene.

HollyFrontier disclosed to the EPA three of its refineries — the Navajo Refinery in Artesia, New Mexico, the Woods Cross Refinery in Woods Cross, Utah, and the El Dorado Refinery in El Dorado, Kansas — produced approximately 42 million gallons of gasoline introduced into commerce in the Utah, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Idaho markets that exceeded the applicable RVP standards. HollyFrontier reported to the EPA these violations resulted in about 10 excess tons of VOC emissions.

Under the settlement, HollyFrontier will install new equipment on two tanks at its Salt Lake refinery to reduce potentially-toxic VOC emissions by about 96 tons over the lifetime of the consent decree. The company will end up required to use advanced pollutant detection technology during the implementation of the mitigation projects, and to hire a third party to verify its compliance status for the projects. Due to the enduring nature of the projects, environmental benefits accruing as a result of these projects should continue for years.

The use of advanced technology and third party verification are part of EPA’s Next Generation Compliance strategy, which promotes advanced emissions and pollutant detection technology and approaches so regulated entities, the government, and the public can more easily see pollutant discharges, environmental conditions, and noncompliance.