WASHINGTON— The Hunt Refining Co. and Hunt Southland Refining Co. have agreed to pay a $400,000 civil penalty and spend more than $48.5 million for new and upgraded pollution controls at three refineries, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced. The settlement resolves alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and is expected to reduce more than 1,250 tons of harmful emissions annually from the company's refineries in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Sandersville and Lumberton, Miss.
“This settlement continues the work of the Department of Justice to assure that all refineries in the United States are in compliance with the Clean Air Act,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement, which was done in coordination with the States of Alabama and Mississippi, requires new pollution controls, reduces air pollutants by a significant amount, secures a sizeable civil penalty, and obtains important environmental projects for the impacted communities.”
“EPA is committed to enforcing the laws that protect the environment and public health,” said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Including today's settlement, refineries across the country have agreed to spend $5 billion in new pollution control technologies and pay $70 million in penalties.”
The states of Alabama and Mississippi have also joined in today’s consent decree and will share equal portions of the civil penalty with EPA.
The agreement requires new pollution controls to be installed that will reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxide by approximately 150 tons per year and sulfur dioxide by almost 1,100 tons per year when fully implemented. The new controls also will result in additional reductions of volatile organic compounds and particulate matter from each of the refineries. Volatile organic compounds and sulfur dioxide can contribute to respiratory disorders such as asthma and reduced lung capacity. They can also cause damage to ecosystems and reduce visibility. The three refineries covered by today’s settlement have the capacity to produce nearly 70,000 barrels of oil per day.
In addition, Hunt will spend $475,000 on projects to benefit the community and environment. Hunt has agreed to upgrade controls to reduce volatile organic compound emissions from the wastewater systems at the Tuscaloosa refinery and will also buy emergency preparedness equipment and train mutual aid responders in Vicksburg, Miss. and Choctaw County, Ala.
In 1996, the EPA turned its focus toward improving compliance among petroleum refiners because of their potential to cause significant amounts of air pollution. At the time, the industry ranked at the top of the list as the biggest emitters of volatile organic compounds and sulfur dioxide emissions. In addition, petroleum refiners emit large amounts of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide. These pollutants contribute to respiratory illness and heart disease, childhood asthma, acid rain, and reduced visibility.
Earlier this year, similar settlements were reached with Valero Energy and Total Petrochemicals requiring approximately $270 million in new pollution controls at refineries in Texas, Tennessee and Ohio.
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice website at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.