BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
SALT LAKE CITY — A fine levied against Tesoro’s Salt Lake City refinery and three others facilities owned by Tesoro indicates the federal Environmental Protection Agency is more proactive than the state in forcing pollution controls, a local environmentalist said.
Tesoro’s Salt Lake refinery is among four of the company’s locations where the EPA says the company violated the Clean Air Act.
The company failed in recordkeeping, reporting, sampling and testing requirements, according to an EPA press release.
The Salt Lake refinery and Tesoro facilities in Mandan, N.D.; Anacortes, Wash.; and Kenai, Alaska, will share the fine levied.
Longtime environmental advocate Dr. Brian Moench has criticized Utah’s Division of Air Quality for allowing the local refineries to expand. In an email, Moench said, “The state has acted essentially as a ‘lap dog’ for the refineries, but the EPA, in contrast, has held their ground and has been more helpful in forcing more pollution controls.”
In addition to the fine, Tesoro will have to implement an environmental compliance and auditing plan, designed to prevent future violations and ensure compliance with EPA’s fuels regulation, which requires that all fuel produced, imported and sold in the United States meet certain standards, according to the EPA.
Fuel that does not meet those standards could lead to an increase in emissions of harmful pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds and cancer-causing air toxins, the release said.
“EPA’s fuels regulations are vital safeguards that protect our nation’s air quality,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “By taking action against violations of these regulations, EPA is not only protecting people’s health, but is also ensuring a level playing field for refiners that play by the rules.”
Tesoro released a statement through company spokeswoman Tina Barbee that the regulatory agency’s allegations relate primarily to the testing of gasoline batches and reporting of gasoline quality to the government between 2003 and 2006.
”Tesoro takes the environmental compliance obligations very seriously and worked diligently with the EPA and the Justice Department to resolve the issues raised in this matter,” she said in an email.
Last year, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment challenged Tesoro’s planned expansion, “because of concerns they were doing it on the cheap,” the organization’s president Moench said.
That challenge is making its way through the legal system.