Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim Delivers Remarks at the ALI-CLE Environmental Law Conference in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice today announced an agreement with Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum Company that will reduce air pollution from the company’s petroleum refineries in Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and Ohio. Marathon will spend $319 million to install state-of-the-art Flare Gas Recovery Systems (FGRSs), which will capture and recycle gases that would otherwise be sent to combustion devices known as flares. Marathon will also spend $15.55 million on projects to reduce air pollution at three of the facilities and will pay a civil penalty of $326,500 to the United States.
“This agreement continues the significant pollution reductions achieved under our earlier consent decree with Marathon in 2012,” said John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “All five communities near these refineries will breathe cleaner air as a result of this agreement and Detroit will see a reduction in flaring at the refinery’s fence line.”
“When companies like Marathon install state-of-the-art pollution controls, they reduce air pollution in some of our most vulnerable communities,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “By updating this agreement, we are furthering our commitment to protect communities across the Southeast and the Midwest, especially places like Detroit that are overburdened by pollution.”
“This agreement marks significant progress in environmental justice in southwest Detroit,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan. “It shows that industry can thrive while protecting the environment. By investing in technology, Marathon will improve air quality for all of our residents throughout southeastern Michigan.”
The settlement filed today in the U.S. District Court in Detroit amends a 2012 consent decree involving the company’s flares. A flare is a mechanical device, ordinarily elevated high off the ground, used to combust waste gases.
When fully implemented, today’s agreement is expected to reduce harmful air pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sulfur dioxides (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by approximately 1,037 tons per year. In 2012, Marathon agreed to reduce air pollution from flares by generating less waste gas and by installing equipment designed to make flares burn more efficiently. The 2012 settlement has reduced emissions of VOCs and SO2 by over 5,200 tons per year.
Under the agreement filed today, Marathon will install seven FGRSs at an estimated cost of $319 million at five of its refineries located in Canton, Ohio; Catlettsburg, Kentucky; Detroit; Garyville, Louisiana; and Robinson, Illinois. Marathon will be required to operate these FGRSs at a higher percentage of time than EPA has ever secured in prior enforcement actions. Marathon will also maintain two duplicates of a critical spare part to be delivered immediately to any of these refineries as necessary, to help make sure the FGRSs have minimal downtime.
Marathon will also spend approximately $6 million to shut down a flare at the fence line of its Detroit refinery and $9.55 million on projects to reduce NOx emissions at its Canton and Garyville refineries.
By installing advanced pollution controls at its refineries, Marathon will help reduce emissions that can cause respiratory and cardiovascular health impacts, which can disproportionately affect low-income and vulnerable populations, including children.
Under the settlement, some of Marathon’s obligations under the 2012 agreement to ensure high flare combustion efficiency will eventually be replaced by Marathon’s obligation to comply with a new, 2015 EPA rule on flare combustion efficiency. At four refineries, compliance with an EPA flare standard related to SO2 will be extended for a limited period. The projected temporary increase in pollution related to those extensions will be more than offset by contemporaneous decreases that will continue indefinitely.
The consent decree – subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval – is available at: www.justice.gov/enrd/.
To learn more about the settlement, visit: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/first-amendment-2012-us-v-marathon-petroleum-co-clean-air-act-consent-decree
To learn more about EPA’s civil enforcement of the Clean Air Act, visit: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/air-enforcement.
To learn more about EPA’s refinery initiative, visit: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/petroleum-refinery-national-case-results.