CITGO Petroleum Corporation Clean Air Act Settlement
(Washington, DC - September 19, 2013) - The Department of Justice and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Houston-based CITGO Petroleum Corp. (CITGO) has agreed to pay a $737,000 civil penalty and to implement projects to reduce harmful air pollution, resolving alleged violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) at its petroleum refining facilities located in Lemont, Ill. and Lake Charles (Westlake), La.
- Pollutant Impacts
- Health and Environmental Benefits
- Environmental Justice
- Civil Penalty
- Comment Period
Overview of Company
CITGO Petroleum Corporation (CITGO) is a refiner and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals, and other industrial products. CITGO is owned by PDV America, Inc., an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. CITGO owns and operates refineries in the United States with a combined refining capacity of approximately 750,000 barrels per day. The CITGO refineries subject to this Consent Decree are located in Lemont, Illinois, and Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Overview of Case/Violations
The settlement resolves a United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement action against CITGO for Clean Air Act (Act) violations involving CITGO’s failure to comply with its mobile source air toxics (MSAT) baseline standard at its Lake Charles refinery and its failure to comply with various sampling, testing, and recordkeeping requirements at its Lemont refinery, as required by the fuels regulations and the Act.
The Consent Decree requires CITGO to take actions to mitigate the harm to human health and the environment caused by the excess emissions resulting from the violations at issue in this case. Specifically, CITGO will: (1) install and maintain a geodesic dome on a gasoline storage tank at its Lemont refinery, and (2) install and maintain carbon adsorption systems on two fuel storage tanks at its Lake Charles refinery.
EPA estimates that CITGO’s Lake Charles refinery violations resulted in excess mobile source air toxics emissions (primarily benzene).
The sampling, testing, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements of the fuels program provide the foundation for EPA’s compliance program. Refiners that violate these requirements undermine the integrity of the fuels regulations and hinder the Agency’s ability to ensure gasoline complies with fuel quality and performance standards, potentially leading to an increase in harmful air pollution.
Health and Environmental Benefits
There are hundreds of different compounds and elements that are known to be emitted from passenger cars, on-highway trucks, various non-road equipment, and the fuels used in these mobile sources. Several of these compounds may negatively impact the quality of air resources so as to have adverse effects on the public health and welfare. Notwithstanding improvements in vehicle emission controls, emissions from motor vehicles are a substantial portion of all air pollution. When inappropriate fuels are used, the emissions of harmful gases from internal combustion engines can increase significantly and emission control equipment can be damaged.
CITGO’s Lake Charles refinery produced fuel that exceeded the refinery’s annual average emissions limit for mobile source air toxics. Mobile source air toxics are compounds emitted from highway vehicles and non-road equipment, and the fuels used in these mobile sources are known or suspected to cause cancer and other serious health and environmental effects. Mobile sources also contribute to precursor emissions that react to form secondary pollutants. Examples of mobile source air toxics include benzene (the primary air toxic at issue in this case), 1,3-butadiene, acetaldehyde, acrolein, naphthalene, and diesel particulate matter.
The EPA estimates that the environmental mitigation projects required by the Consent Decree will reduce emissions by about 21.43 tons per year of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including toxics, for each of the five years that the Consent Decree remains in effect - over 100 tons of VOCs over the lifetime of the Consent Decree. Since we expect the geodesic dome and the carbon adsorption systems will likely continue to operate after the Consent Decree is terminated, environmental benefits accruing as a result of these projects are anticipated to continue for many years. VOCs are one of the primary constituents of smog, which react in sunlight to form low-level ozone. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion, and can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.
Failure to sample and test gasoline according to proper procedures and requirements, failure to maintain records, and failure to submit required reports to the EPA are significant violations because they result in: (1) a reduced ability by the EPA to know whether the fuel at issue met an applicable standard (or would require substantial government resources in order to determine whether the fuel met the applicable standards); (2) increased risk of excess emissions as a result of fuel being produced that does not meet applicable standards; and (3) a negative impact on the integrity of the fuels program.
The EPA’s environmental justice screening tools did not indicate acute environmental justice concerns for the communities surrounding either refinery. However, the cumulative effects of the mitigation actions at both the Lemont and Lake Charles refineries will likely result in significant health and environmental benefits to the vulnerable communities near the facilities.
CITGO will pay a $737,000 civil penalty.
The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice website.
For more information, contact:
Air Enforcement Division
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1595 Wynkoop Street (8MSU)
Denver, CO 80202-1129
Natalie Firestine (firstname.lastname@example.org)