October 19, 2009

USEPA Blocks BP Refinery Expansion

Good news today on the clean energy front:
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued an objection to the operating permit for BP North America’s refinery in Whiting, IN that will require the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to rewrite the permit. The decision is a
victory for the citizens and environmental groups who petitioned EPA to
object to the permit in August 2008 on the grounds that it did not
accurately account for the large increases in dangerous air pollution that
would be caused by BP’s expansion of the refinery. The petition was
submitted by Environmental Law & Policy Center, Hoosier Environmental
Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, Save the Dunes Council, Sierra
Club, Susan Eleuterio and Tom Tsourlis.

BP began a major expansion of the Whiting Refinery in 2008 in order to
process dirty Canadian tar sands crude oil at the facility. The expansion
would make the refinery the largest refiner of tar sands oil in the U.S.
and would increase numerous traditional air pollutants like sulfur dioxide,
nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. In addition, the expansion would
create approximately as much new global warming pollution as a new 300-400
megawatt coal plant, about a forty percent increase from current refinery

BP’s permit application claimed the expansion would not increase pollution
because the company would offset the increased emissions by shutting down
some older equipment at the refinery at a later date. But the company
failed to take into account many distinct sources of pollution from the
refinery, including flares (the large torch-like tower structures that burn
excess gases from the refining process) and “fugitive emissions” from leaks
and other sources. EPA’s objection requires the Indiana Department of
Environmental Management to go back and redo the permit taking these
sources into account. In the case of flares, EPA also presented the option
of prohibiting all new and increased flaring emissions. This is the first
Title V decision from the EPA requiring that these pollution sources be
addressed in refinery permits, and stands as important direction-setting
for future projects.

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