Massive fine for polluting refinery

A refinery in Memphis, Tennessee has agreed to pay $2.2 million to resolve allegations that it violated the Clean Air Act.

Williams Refining Company, the former owner of the petrol refinery, was accused of failing to adequately control its emissions of carcinogenic benzene at the plant, storing hazardous waste improperly and thus breaching the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act and also violating the Clean Water Act following an oil pipe rupture.

The American Environmental Prrotection Agency began investigations when the company reported less than 10 megagrams of benzene emissions, a claim that drew suspicion because it seemed an unrealistically low figure considering on the size of the refinery.

The Clean Air Act requires refineries that discharge more than 10 megagrams per year to manage their wastewater in compliance with strict national standards.

In addition, the CAA requires refineries to monitor valves and pumps for leaks, and to repair any leaks discovered. Further violations were discovered during an inspection on November 5 and 6, 2002 and as the result of a pipeline rupture which occurred on February 3, 2002.

“Refineries are not exempt from environmental rules and regulations,” said Matt McKeown, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division.

“The Justice Department is pleased to settle these allegations and will continue to investigate and prosecute those who fail to comply with environmental laws.”

Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, added: “The EPA is committed to ensuring that all people breathe healthier, cleaner air.”

“This case shows that when a company violates the law by failing to control leaks of hazardous pollutants, EPA vigorously enforces the law.”

A portion of the penalty will be paid to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for violations of the Clean Water Act.

Williams owned and operated the petroleum refinery from the mid-1980s until March 2003. The refinery was purchased by the Premcor Refining Group in 2003 and merged with Valero Energy Company in 2005.

Since it changed hands there have been no reports of environmental violations.

Sam Bond

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