U.S. Oil & Refining Co. has agreed to pay a $230,000 fine for violations of two federal air statutes and spend an additional $746,000 in plant improvements to reduce emissions and upgrade its leak detection system, according to a joint consent decree by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Justice and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
The consent decree was approved by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington on Wednesday.
According to the joint complaint filed by the agencies in December, U.S. Oil’s Tacoma, Wash. refinery violated the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) and Clean Air Act for failing to adequately report and track the benzene content of its wastes, which should have been reported in annual reports to the EPA and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. The complaint also alleged the company failed to repair and report leaking valves and pumps in a timely manner.
According to the EPA, the facility, which can process over 39,000 barrels of oil per day, had a long history of Clean Air Act violations between 1993 and 2006.
Benzene, a known human carcinogen, is found in emissions from burning coal and oil, gasoline service stations, and motor vehicle exhaust. According to both the EPA and National Toxicology Program, short-term exposure to benzene can cause respiratory and skin irritation.
Under the consent decree, U.S. Oil agreed to enhance its leak detection and benzene waste programs by making repairs when leaks are detected, at levels lower than required by the regulations. The company will also beef up its monitoring of benzene in the waste streams generated at the facility.
In addition to the fine, the company will upgrade its Tacoma facility by installing new equipment to control asphalt vapors that contain particulates, which are air pollutants and respiratory irritants.