Remands to LDEQ for Further Review
(St. Bernard Parish, LA) – EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Wednesday, September 21, 2011, rejected a Clean Air Act permit for Murphy Oil, Inc.'s Meraux, Louisiana refinery.
The pollution permit is for a processing unit for low-benzene gasoline products at Murphy Oil's Meraux refinery and is part of the EPA’s clean fuel mandates. The benzene reducing unit was constructed and placed into service in March 2011 at the Meraux, Louisiana refinery. Early this month, Valero Energy Corporation announced its agreement to purchase the Meraux refinery pending regulatory approvals.
LDEQ based the permit limits on pollution estimates that fell below a threshold for installation of state-of-the-art pollution controls (known as Best Available Control Technology). The Concerned Citizens’ petition to EPA, however, showed that LDEQ miscalculated and that changes to the refinery are "major," triggering the requirement for more stringent pollution control technology. The petition also showed that LDEQ failed to gather enough emission data to make a reliable judgment about whether Murphy’s application triggered the requirement for state-of-the-art controls. EPA agreed, objected to Murphy Oil's permit, and remanded the permit application to LDEQ for further review.
The EPA granted the citizen's petition that LDEQ failed to provide adequate public comment responses regarding sufficient information in the permit records. EPA wrote, "We cannot determine whether all necessary information is located within the permit records." "Many of the emission calculations were illegible and supported only by reference to personal emails between Murphy Oil employees and their consultant."
Comments made by Concerned Citizens in the July 2009 public hearing explained “it is difficult, if not impossible to comment .... without seeing the basis of emission calculations." Public records requests by the Concerned Citizens for specific information from LDEQ on Murphy Oil's emissions calculations were unanswered.
The EPA also agreed that data for certain emission calculations were not included in the permit record, including the releases made during emergency flaring, emissions due to malfunctions at the benzene unit, and the total estimated sulfur content of the refinery fuel gas. LDEQ must also respond to public comments on emission increases due to roof landings for the floating roof tanks.
The Concerned Citizen’s view the petition to EPA as part of their ongoing participation in the public permitting process. Concerned Citizens is a residents’ advocacy group whose purpose is to protect the health, safety, environment, and quality of life of Meraux and the surrounding communities in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.