An official website of the United States government.

We've made some changes to EPA.gov. If the information you are looking for is not here, you may be able to find it on the EPA Web Archive or the January 19, 2017 Web Snapshot.

News Releases

News Releases from Region 01

Proposed Settlement with United States and Massachusetts Will Help Reduce Air Pollution from Sprague Resources' Heated Petroleum Storage Facilities Across New England

05/29/2020
Contact Information: 
David Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov)
(617) 918-1017

BOSTON – Under a proposed settlement with the United States and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Sprague Resources LP will take steps to limit emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from oil storage tanks at seven facilities across New England. The terms of the proposed settlement are designed to bring Sprague into compliance with federal air pollution control laws that regulate the emissions of VOCs from heated #6 oil and asphalt tanks, which can pose public health risks.

The tanks covered under this settlement are located in Everett, Quincy, and New Bedford, Massachusetts; Searsport and South Portland, Maine; Newington, New Hampshire; and Providence, Rhode Island. This agreement resolves alleged violations by Sprague of federal and Commonwealth of Massachusetts clean air laws.

"This settlement will improve compliance with important clean air laws at Sprague's facilities that have heated oil tanks, which means cleaner air for communities across New England," said EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel. "EPA is dedicated to working with our state and federal partners to address important air pollution issues, like controlling VOC emissions from heated oil tanks across New England."

"In the midst of a pandemic, it is more important than ever that industrial facilities emitting dangerous air pollutants comply with laws that protect the health of our residents—especially those in environmental justice communities disparately impacted by COVID-19," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said. "Today's settlement will help protect our clean air and reduce health risks within our most vulnerable communities, which are a top priority during this crisis."

"Sprague is required to obtain air quality permits to regulate its operations, consistent with other petroleum and asphalt storage facilities in Massachusetts," said Eric Worrall, Director of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's Northeast Regional Office in Wilmington. "This settlement will assist Massachusetts' efforts to further reduce ozone and improve air quality in the Commonwealth and throughout New England."

Under the agreement:

  • Sprague will apply for revised state air pollution control permits for facilities in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, where such permits are required, which will limit the amount of #6 oil and asphalt the company can pass through its facilities and will limit the number of tanks that can store #6 oil and asphalt at any one time. These measures will reduce VOC emissions, improving air quality and reducing public health risks. Under the agreement, Sprague must apply for permits for facilities in Everett and Quincy, Massachusetts, Newington, New Hampshire, and South Portland and Searsport, Maine.
  • A Sprague-owned facility in New Bedford, Massachusetts, will stop storing #6 oil and asphalt. This facility would be allowed to open one tank to store asphalt if it obtains a permit for that activity.
  • Sprague will install, operate and maintain carbon bed systems to reduce odors from several tanks in South Portland, Maine, and Quincy, Massachusetts, which have been the subject of odor complaints from nearby residents.
  • Sprague will pay a total of $350,000 in civil penalties, $205,000 to the U.S. government and $145,000 to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

VOC emissions contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone. To reduce ozone levels, the Clean Air Act and state air pollution laws require state permits to limit VOC emissions.

Sprague's heated petroleum storage tanks emit VOCs mainly because #6 oil and asphalt are stored at high temperatures to keep them in liquid rather than solid form. At high temperatures certain substances within these petroleum products vaporize—changing from liquid to vapor—and are vented to the air. Among other things, asphalt is used for paving roads, and #6 oil is used to heat industrial boilers.

VOCs include a variety of chemicals that may produce adverse health effects, such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Breathing ozone formed from VOCs can trigger a variety of health problems, particularly for children, the elderly, and anyone with lung diseases such as asthma. Ozone can also have harmful effects on sensitive vegetation and ecosystems.

For more information: