WASHINGTON – Total Petrochemical USA Inc. (Total) will pay a $2.9 million penalty and upgrade pollution controls at its Port Arthur, Texas, refinery to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act, the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today. Total will make changes to its facility, estimated to cost $37 million, that will significantly reduce the facility’s emissions of air pollutants. Once fully completed, the measures Total will implement will reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxides by more than 180 tons, sulfur dioxide by more than 800 tons, and carbon monoxide by more than 120 tons.
The company has agreed to upgrade leak detection and repair practices and to implement programs to minimize the flaring of hazardous gases, which can cause serious respiratory problems and exacerbate asthma. Total will also adopt strategies to ensure the proper handling of benzene wastewater, a byproduct of processing operations at the refinery.
“Today’s settlement shows a commitment by Total to significantly reduce the emissions that can have serious health effects,” said Matthew J. McKeown, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We are committed to enforcing the laws that protect the environment and public health, in an effort to continue bringing the refinery industry into compliance.”
“This settlement is another success in EPA’s overall effort to reduce refinery pollution,” said Granta Nakayama, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “With today’s settlement, 86 refineries in 25 states across the nation have agreed to address environmental problems and invest over $4.5 billion in new pollution control technologies.”
The measures Total is taking will significantly reduce emissions generated by flaring—the process by which byproduct-gas from the refining process is burned-off in a flaring device. Under the settlement, penalties will apply to the future flaring of both acid gas and hydrocarbon gases that contain hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide. This settlement, part of EPA’s national effort to reduce air emissions from refineries, is the first refinery settlement to include fixed penalties for the flaring of hydrocarbon gases. The settlement also includes a Supplemental Environmental Project that requires the company to test new infrared camera technology to detect equipment leaks. These equipment leaks may contain emissions that contribute to ground-level ozone and smog. Infrared leak-detection cameras are state-of-the-art technology that allow faster detection of equipment leaks.
Today’s agreement, lodged in the Eastern District of Texas, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.
More information on the petroleum refinery initiative is available at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/caa/oil/index.html