BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
SALT LAKE CITY – A settlement agreed to by Chevron Refinery and the Environmental Protection Agency may be a start, but a local environmentalist says it doesn’t address serious pollution problems or hurt the refinery in its pocketbook.
In the settlement, reached last week, Chevron agreed to pay a $384,000 penalty for violations of the Clean Air Act, overhaul and install pollution controls on three engines at the refinery and spend $100,000 to support the purchase of four new compressed natural gas school buses for the Jordan School District.
The refinery is at 2351 N. 1100 West in Salt Lake City.
The settlement stems from alleged violations of permitting requirements at the refinery’s fluid catalytic cracker unit, discovered through an inspection by the EPA and the state, according to an EPA press release.
The work on the three engines will mitigate the effects of past excess emissions by reducing nitrogen oxide emissions by an estimated 50 tons yearly, according to the press release.
The refinery has always had an emissions cap that was never exceeded, according to company spokesman Greg Hardy. He said only one piece of equipment allegedly exceeded the emissions cap.
“We’re paying the civil penalty and installing additional equipment to reduce another five tons of NOx,” Hardy said.
The reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions will have a beneficial effect on communities near the refinery, the EPA release said.
The EPA did not state how much nitrogen oxide Chevron allegedly emitted, but the mitigation measures were calculated at 50 tons. Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment said that nitrogen oxide is a precursor to PM2.5 and ozone.
“Back in the mid 1980s, the EPA estimated that each ton of PM (particulate matter) cost society up to $300,000,” he said. “That estimate was before we knew how much health damage PM causes and it was calculated in 1980 dollars. Even using those old figures, the health damage to the community from those 50 tons of NOx could easily be estimated at least 50 times the fine that was levied.”
He added that given the size of Chevron, “the fine doesn’t even amount to a blip on their profit radar.”
Moench expects that like Holly and Tesoro refineries, Chevron will soon submit an application to expand.
“Their track record should immediately disqualify them from even being considered for an expansion,” Moench said.
The settlement does not indicate that EPA and the state Division of Air Quality recognize more needs to be done at area refineries, Moench said.
“If that were the case, the DAQ would not be approving these expansions in the first place.”
The refinery has had three major spills in northern Utah in the past three years.
“We should apply a corporate version of the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ law,’” Moench said. “This is further justification for the idea, ‘Move the refineries, not the prison.’”