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Environmental groups sue state over Tesoro
Jul 25, 2013 | 963 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

BY MELINDA WILLIAMS

Clipper Staff Writer

SALT LAKE CITY — After the state Division of Air Quality approved Tesoro’s expansion plans in spite of protests by environmental groups, two of those groups have filed an injunction to stop the work.

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and the Sierra Club announced Wednesday they had filed the injunction, “the next legal step in stopping the expansion,” said Dr. Brian Moench, president of the physicians’ organization.

“We protested the expansion in the fall and they (DAQ) approved it anyway,” Moench said on Wednesday morning.

In addition, the groups say they will file suit against the DAQ in August for failing to require Tesoro to have a Title V permit.

Moench said none of Utah’s refineries have the permits, which provide residents with oversight of polluters and their ability to hold them accountable for minimizing their emissions.

Tesoro’s expansion will allow the refinery to construct a processing plant fore a black wax and yellow wax crude at the existing refinery in Salt Lake City.

Environmentalists said they met with Tesoro officials and asked the company to abandon the expansion project or put additional pollution controls in place, but the company refused to change its plans, Moench said.

The injunction was filed with the Administrative Law Judge Bret F. Randall, as outlined by Utah law, Moench said.

“We’re hoping the administrative law judge acts on the injunction,” Moench said. 

If he doesn’t, the environmental group will take the next step in the legal process to stop Tesoro’s expansion. 

The environmental groups say the Utah Division of Air Quality admits its State Implementation Plan fails to bring the state into compliance with national air quality standards for PM 2.5, according to a press release.

“Nonetheless, DAQ has approved Tesoro’s refinery expansion, and proposes to approve Holly’s even bigger refinery expansion,” the release said. “The result will be decades of increased air pollution.”

Officials with the state division of Air Quality declined to comment on the injunction, saying they have yet to receive the legal documents.

“However, it is important to note that current efforts are continuing to develop new requirements to address air pollution in the state. This will include required reductions from each of the refineries, DAQ director Bryce Bird said in an email to the Clipper.

“Responding to challenges to permits that were issued under the past requirements defers sparse state resources away from the actions that will provide future reductions.”

Environmentalists would also like Holly to abandon its expansion plans. 

They say Holly is manipulating the calculations of its emissions, and that “DAQ’s acceptance of Holly’s methodology is unprecedented, unscientific, unacceptable and demonstrates a persistent priority of protecting industry profits rather than public health,” Moench said.

Nevertheless, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment believes they’ve had an impact on Holly, which redeveloped its expansion plans, putting more pollution controls into place.

“If nothing happens from here on, we have a cleaner facility at Holly than the DAQ initially required, Moench said. 

mwilliams@davisclipper.com

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