Valero Energy Pays $238 Million to Clear Refinery Emissions

WASHINGTON, DC, August 21, 2007 (ENS) - The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have reached an agreement with petroleum refiner Valero Energy Corp. that requires new and upgraded pollution abatement equipment, obtains a $4.25 million penalty, and secures environmental projects to help communities affected by refinery emissions.

The state of Ohio and Memphis-Shelby County, Tennessee have joined in the consent decree and will receive a portion of the civil penalty.

The agreement requires that Valero spend $232 million on new and upgraded pollution controls at refineries in Port Arthur, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; and Lima, Ohio. These facilities were formerly owned by Premcor Inc. and were purchased by Valero in late 2005.

When fully implemented, the pollution controls will reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxide by more than 1,870 tons per year and sulfur dioxide by more than 1,810 tons per year, the EPA said.

Emissions of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter from each of the refineries will also be reduced. These pollutants can cause serious respiratory problems and exacerbate cases of childhood asthma.

The settlement requires an additional $1.6 million to be spent on projects serving the Port Arthur, Texas community, a low-income city surrounded by chemical and petrochemical industries.

Valero will spend $1 million to support a local health center serving uninsured and underinsured residents of the Port Arthur area, for the diagnosis and treatment of asthma and other respiratory illnesses that may be caused or exacerbated by air pollution.

A mobile air monitoring van for the Local Emergency Response Commission will be provided.

The company will provide “shelter-in-place” air control systems at the Booker T. Washington Elementary and Memorial 9th Grade Center schools to detect, isolate and filter air pollution that may result from emissions in the Port Arthur area.

The company will underwrite a project to replace existing high-emitting water heaters with new low-emission water heaters in low-income residences in the Port Arthur area.

Supplemental projects also will be performed in the communities near the Lima and Memphis refineries, such as the installation of equipment on municipal diesel trucks and buses to reduce particulate and ozone-forming emissions, and the installation of new equipment to control wastewater treatment plant odors.

This settlement is part of the EPA’s national effort to reduce air emissions from refineries. Through federal settlements such as the one reached today, approximately 84 percent of domestic refining capacity is now operating under pollution reduction agreements. Including the settlement with Valero, 89 refineries located in 26 states across the nation are now under agreements to address environmental problems and to invest over $4.7 billion in new pollution control technologies.

In June 2005, a similar settlement was reached with Valero that addressed the refineries it owned at that time under which Valero committed to spend at least $700 million at 14 refineries nationwide.

The agreement was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. A copy of the consent decree is online at: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.