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Environmental Enforcement: Mariana Acquisition Corp. To Pay $826,000 to Settle Alleged Clean Air Act Violations

Mariana Acquisition Corp. has agreed to pay $826,000 for allegedly violating the federal Clean Air Act by failing to control emissions from its gasoline storage and distribution facility, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today.

For more than two decades, the energy company – previously doing business as Shell Marianas – failed to install vapor pollution controls and comply with a pollution limit at a bulk gasoline terminal loading area in the Northern Mariana Islands, according to the complaint filed simultaneously with the settlement.

Failure to limit its emissions led to the illegal discharge of about five tons of volatile organic compounds into the air each year from the plant on Saipan (pictured), the most populous island in the Northern Mariana Islands, the EPA complaint alleged.

“This is the EPA’s second settlement in a year aimed at improving air quality in Saipan,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Similar to the requirements imposed on the Mobil Oil terminals, we are requiring the Mariana Acquisition facility to install controls to cut the health risks to local residents by reducing hazardous air pollutants.”

As part of the settlement, Mariana Acquisition will install air pollution controls, as well as limit its facility operations until the controls are installed. Mariana Acquisition estimates that it will spend $2.3 million on improvements to the bulk gasoline terminal.

Bulk gasoline terminals are large storage tank facilities where gasoline is loaded into tank trucks for distribution to gasoline service stations. Vapors containing volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants, including the known human carcinogen benzene, can leak from storage tanks, pipes, and tank trucks as they are loaded.

The Northern Mariana Islands are a commonwealth in political union with the United States. The chain of islands lies in the northern Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii to the Philippines. Today’s settlement was lodged in the U.S. District Court for Northern Mariana Islands

In July 2010, Mobil Oil Mariana Islands Inc. and Mobil Oil Guam agreed to pay a $2.4 million civil penalty for allegedly failing to control emissions from bulk gasoline terminals in Saipan and Guam, according to the Saipan Tribune.

Mobil admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement.

Under the consent decree, Mobil agreed not to operate its fuel storage tanks on Saipan or in Guam until they met the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, the paper reported

In January this year the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice announced that Hovensa LLC, owner of the second largest petroleum refinery in the U.S., had agreed to pay a civil penalty of more than $5.3 million and spend more than $700 million on new pollution controls at its St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands refinery.

The company also set aside an additional $4.9 million for projects to benefit the environment of the U.S. Virgin Islands, as part of the settlement.

The EPA’s complaint alleged that the company made modifications to its refinery that increased emissions without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing pollution control equipment required under the federal Clean Air Act.

And in June, 2010, oil giant ExxonMobil and two of its affiliates agreed to pay a $2.9 million civil penalty to resolve allegations that the company violated the state’s air pollution laws at its bulk gasoline terminals in Everett and Springfield, Mass.

Under the agreement, ExxonMobil also agreed to improve air pollution control systems at both terminals to reduce emissions of gasoline vapors, volatile organic compounds and other toxic pollutants. The company also agreed to contribute $200,000 to help fund the replacement of stationary diesel refrigeration units at a Chelsea, Mass., fruit and vegetable market with non-polluting electrically driven units.

Picture caption: ctsnow

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