Hovensa settles federal air pollution charges with DOJ, EPA

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 28 -- Hovensa LLC, which operates the nation’s second-largest refinery, agreed to pay a $5.375 million fine and spend more than $700 million to resolve charges that its 525,000-b/cd facility at St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, violated the federal Clean Air Act, the US Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency jointly announced on Jan. 26.

A consent decree for the settlement was filed in US District Court for the Virgin Islands and will be subject to public comment and court approval for 30 days.

DOJ and EPA said that the settlement requires new and upgraded pollution controls, more stringent emission limits and aggressive monitoring, leak-detection, and repair practices to reduce emissions from refinery equipment and process units. The refinery is operated by Hovensa, a joint venture of Hess Corp. and Venzuela’s Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

The government’s complaint, filed concurrently with the settlement, alleged that the company made modified the refinery in ways which increased emissions without first obtaining preconstruction permits and installing required pollution control equipment. It noted that the CAA requires major air pollution sources to obtain such permits before making changes that would result in a significant emissions increase of any pollutant.

DOJ and EPA said that once they are fully implemented, the pollution controls required by the settlement will reduce nitrogen oxide emission by an estimated more than 5,000 tons/year and sulfur dioxide emissions by nearly 3,500 tons/year. They said that the settlement also will result in additional reductions of volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants that affect air quality. Additional pollution-reducing projects at the refinery’s coking unit under the settlement will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 6,100 tons/year, they added.

The Virgin Islands’ government has joined in the settlement and will receive a portion of the civil penalty. In addition, the company will set aside an additional $4.875 million for projects to benefit the environment of the US Virgin Islands. The projects will be identified jointly by the US Virgin Islands government and Hovensa in consultation with EPA.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.



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