WASHINGTON — Williams Refining Co., the former owner and operator of a Memphis, Tenn., petroleum refinery, has agreed to pay $2.2 million in civil penalties to resolve allegations that the company violated the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced.
The settlement agreement resolves several allegations including failure to comply with regulations intended to prevent benzene emissions, a chemical that Congress has labeled a hazardous air pollutant under the CAA.
Williams Refining has also agreed to resolve all allegations that it failed to comply with CAA standards regarding leak detection and repair regulations on equipment in its refinery. The agreement also resolves assertions that it failed to properly store hazardous waste as required under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and one violation under the Clean Water Act for an oil pipeline rupture.
“Refineries are not exempt from environmental rules and regulations,” said Matt McKeown, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division. “The Justice Department is pleased to have reached a favorable resolution to these allegations and will continue to investigate and take action against those who fail to comply with environmental laws.”
EPA initiated an investigation into the refinery after the company reported less than 10 megagrams of benzene emissions, an assertion that drew suspicion based on the size of the refinery. The CAA requires refineries that discharge more than 10 megagrams per year to manage their wastewater in compliance with the Benzene National Emissions Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants.
“EPA is committed to ensuring that all people breathe healthier, cleaner air,” said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case shows that when a company violates the law by failing to control leaks of hazardous pollutants, EPA vigorously enforces the law.”
In addition, the CAA requires refineries to monitor valves and pumps for leaks and to repair any leaks discovered. Further violations were discovered during an inspection on Nov. 5-6, 2002 and as the result of a pipeline rupture which occurred on Feb. 3, 2002.
The complaint and the settlement were filed in the Western District of Tennessee.
A portion of the penalty will be paid to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for violations of the Clean Water Act.
Williams owned and operated the petroleum refinery located in Memphis, Tenn., from the mid-1980s until March 2003. The refinery was purchased by Premcor Refining Group Inc. in 2003 and merged with Valero Energy Company in 2005.