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$425 Million Clean-Air Settlement Will Force Changes At Tesoro Oil Refineries

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Ted S. Warren, File
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AP Photo
The Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash. The Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday, July 18, 2016, announced a $425 million settlement with Tesoro Corp. and Par Hawaii Refining to reduce air pollution at six refineries.

The Tesoro oil refinery in Anacortes is among six in the nation that will receive new equipment to reduce toxic air pollution. It’s part of a $425 million settlement for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.  The U.S. Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency announced the deal in Seattle, calling it the largest settlement to date of its kind.

The agreement requires installation of new equipment at all six refineries, worth a total more than $400-million. It will reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants that are known or suspected to cause cancer and birth defects and to contribute to acid rain, smog and haze.

“Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide – there’s going to be tens of thousands of tons of pollution reduced every year as a result of this consent decree,” said Assistant Attorney General John Cruden, who flew to Seattle from Washington D.C. to make the announcement. He says the protections moving forward include adding next generation enforcement measures at the refineries.

“Part of the money from this consent decree is going to buy infrared cameras. Infrared cameras can see volatile organic compounds coming out of a facility that you and I cannot see by our eyes,” Cruden said.     

Mark Asmundson, executive director of the Northwest Clean Air Agency, said authorities worked hard for several years to get Tesoro to the table and then to secure agreement to the terms of the settlement.

He says one of the main benefits is the provision for detection and repair of leaks, which can add up to a lot of accidental pollution.       

“This consent decree dramatically reduces the level of what’s considered a problem and requires action on the part of the refinery. This is a very good thing for the benefit of the workers and for the benefit of the surrounding community,” Asmundson said.

Under the settlement, Tesoro will also pay for third-party audits of compliance with increased leak detection and repair requirements at all six facilities. And it is paying nearly $25 million for civil penalties and pollution mitigation projects. In addition to Anacortes, the other refineries are located in Alaska, California, Hawaii, North Dakota and Utah.  

Also agreeing to the deal is Par Pacific Holdings, Inc., which purchased the Kapolei refinery in Hawaii from Tesoro in 2013.

The filing of the consent decree in U.S. District Court requires a 30-day period for public comment, which will start soon.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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