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Refiners in Kansas and Wyoming Agree to Settlements for Alleged Violations of Federal Clean Air Act

Release Date: 02/10/2009
Contact Information: Dave Ryan, 202-564-4335,

Environmental News


(Kansas City, Kan., Feb. 10, 2009) - Two petroleum refiners have agreed in separate settlements to spend a total of more than $141 million on new air pollution controls at three refineries in Kansas and Wyoming, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department announced today. All told, the settlements are expected to reduce harmful air emissions by 7,000 tons per year.

Frontier Refining and Frontier El Dorado Refining (Frontier) have agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1.23 million and spend approximately $127 million in pollution control upgrades for alleged violations at refineries in Cheyenne, Wyo., and El Dorado, Kan.

Separately, Wyoming Refining Co. (WRC) has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $150,000 and spend approximately $14 million on similar upgrades for alleged violations at its Newcastle, Wyo., refinery.

"Today's settlements demonstrate EPA's continuing efforts to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, which are the largest sources of pollution from refineries," said Catherine McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide can cause severe respiratory problems and contribute to childhood asthma, smog and haze, as well as other health and environmental effects."

"Today's agreements will bring three important refineries, two in Wyoming and one in Kansas, into compliance with the Clean Air Act," said John C. Cruden, Acting Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The settlements, done in coordination with the states of Wyoming and Kansas, require new pollution controls, reduce significant amounts of air pollutants, secure sizeable penalties, and will ultimately benefit the environment and impacted communities."

The three refineries are required to install advanced control technologies that, when fully implemented, will reduce annual emissions of sulfur dioxide by approximately 3,775 tons, nitrogen oxide by approximately 2,100 tons, and other pollutants by approximately 1,200 tons. The refineries have a combined production capacity of approximately 168,000 barrels per day.

In addition, each refinery will upgrade leak-detection and repair practices to reduce harmful emissions from pumps and valves, implement programs to minimize the number and severity of flaring events and adopt new strategies for ensuring continued compliance with benzene waste requirements under the Clean Air Act. Flaring, the process by which byproduct-gas from the refining process is burned off, can cause respiratory problems and exacerbate asthma.

As part of its settlement, Frontier agreed to implement environmentally beneficial projects valued at more than $1.3 million, including the installation of dome covers on refinery storage tanks to reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. VOCs are a prime ingredient in the formation of smog.

The settlement also requires Frontier to correct deficiencies in the refinery's risk management program that were identified during a 2006 EPA inspection. These deficiencies included overdue inspections and tests of storage vessels containing toxic and flammable substances.

Under the Clean Air Act, facilities that handle large amounts of chemicals are required to develop a risk management program to assess hazards associated with dangerous chemicals. The program must include an accident prevention program and an emergency response plan to deal with accidental releases.

Today's agreements are the latest in a series of comprehensive, company-wide settlements under an EPA initiative to reduce air pollution from refineries nationwide. With today's settlements, 99 refineries operating in 29 states, or 88 percent of the nation's refining capacity, are required to reduce emissions under company-wide enforcement agreements.

The State of Wyoming joined the federal government in the agreement with WRC. Wyoming and Kansas both joined the federal government in the agreement with Frontier.

The consent decrees, lodged today in the U.S. District Courts in Kansas and Wyoming, are subject to 30-day public comment periods and approvals by the federal courts.

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