By Rose Bouboushian
CHICAGO (CN) – The federal government and Citgo reached a settlement over claims that the oil company violated the Clean Air Act by not preventing pollutants from escaping its Illinois refinery.
Citgo Petroleum Corp. and PDV Midwest Refining LLC started constructing a “major modification,” known as the ultra-low sulfur diesel project, at their Lemont, Ill. refinery, located about 30 miles southwest of Chicago, around 2010, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Chicago federal court.
“The modifications involved physical changes or changes in the methods of operation at air emissions sources within the Lemont Refinery, including without limitation, the construction of two new heaters,” the complaint states.
The fed says the modifications “resulted in significant emissions increases of [nitrogen oxides, or NOx], [particulate matter PM10] and PM2.5, and a significant net emissions increase of these pollutants from the Lemont Refinery.”
But “in its application for a permit for the modifications, Citgo improperly undertook a netting analysis and claimed that the…project did not result in a significant net emissions increase of NOx, PM10 or PM2.5,” the 60-page complaint continues.
Citgo did not undergo a proper “best available control technology” determination for nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, as required by the Prevention of Significant Deterioration program of the Clean Air Act, the government says.
The refinery owner therefore did not install and operate such technology on the modified units or “demonstrate that the emissions increases from the modifications would not cause or contribute to violations of air quality standards,” the complaint states.
Citgo also allegedly failed to “provide for review and public comment on the air quality impacts of the modifications.”
The oil company allegedly made similar errors from 2008 to 2010, when it shut down a wet gas scrubber and wet electrostatic precipitator on a catalyst regenerator, leading to “significant” particulate matter and sulfuric acid mist emissions.
The 15-count lawsuit alleges violations of the Clean Air Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, and Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act.
The government is represented by John Cruden, assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in Washington, D.C.
A Citgo official said the company filed a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday.
“This consent decree is the result of many years of cooperative efforts to identify improvements to emission controls, detailed program enhancements, and practical ways to monitor and report data that will further assure our local communities that Citgo Lemont continues to operate responsibly,” the official said.
The official added, “Our investments reflect Citgo’s significant commitment to improve its operational and environmental performance. We appreciate the EPA’s cooperation reaching this agreement and will continue to work with our community and regulators to ensure the health and safety of our employees, our neighbors and the environment.”