Pending Petition to EPA to Object air permit
"If our air has too much of a pollutant like sulfur dioxide already, then its important to know the facts when a facility plans to put much more of it in our air. If pollution exceeds a certain level, then requiring controls could rein it in to safer levels. We can have both safer emissions as well as provide for public health and our quality of life -- the choice doesn't have to be one or the other."
May 2013 Concerned Citizens Around Murphy now seeks relief in Federal Court to compel EPA to act without further unreasonable delay, to modify, terminate, or revoke the permit. A proper permit would lower emissions and protect human health.
The U.S. EPA illegally allows Valero Energy's oil refinery in St. Bernard Parish, to pollute and poison the air, Concerned Citizens Around Murphy claim in Federal Court.
There seems to be a systemic problem of harmful emissions simply eluding permit applications in St Bernard Parish, Louisiana and the result is a significant deterioration of the air we breathe and the various adverse health consequences. Just yesterday, the SBPG HRQL Commissioners expressed the community’s health concerns about the non-permitted emissions at a St Bernard calcining plant ; emissions of chemicals that LDEQ’s monitoring may not even sample for, including antimony, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid and sulfates.
Petition to EPA seeking objection to Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Clean Air Act permit for Valero energy Corp.'s Meraux, LA refinery, based on allegations that LDEQ failed to resolve EPA's objection to the permit.
In December 2011, LDEQ, instead, responded with comments in support of its permit as issued. LDEQ also failed to provide an opportunity for public participation on its response to EPA’s September 2011 orders.
Concerned Citizens also sees a connection between lax emission controls and St Bernard Parish's failure to meet EPA's health protection standard of 75 parts per billion for sulfur dioxide concentrations in air.
May 8 2012 Citizens filed a notice of intent to file suit to compel EPA to Act.
April 3 2012 Concerned Citizens-2nd-Petition-to-EPA seeking objection to Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Clean Air Act permit for Valero energy Corp.'s Meraux, LA refinery, based on allegations that LDEQ failed to resolve EPA's December 21, 2011 objection to the permit.
Louisiana DEQ's Response December 20, 2011
September 2011 EPA order
Citizen Petition Granted in part and Denied in part
December 2011 Federal Registry
Concerned Citizens Around Murphy, represented by Tulane University's Environmental Law Clinic, initially Petitioned Administrator Jackson , EPA, in December 2009 to Veto Murphy Oil's Air Permit. Concerned Citizens brought the action because the permit fails to require state-of-the-art pollution control technology, and Concerned Citizens also sees a connection between lax emission controls and St Bernard Parish's failure to meet EPA's health protection standard of 75 parts per billion for sulfur dioxide concentrations in air.
Concerned Citizens Around Murphy v Jackson, the initial citizens suit to compel EPA to act. No. 2:10-cv-04444 (E.D. La. Dec. 1, 2010) EPA responded to the citizen's petition 9/21/2011
EPA upholds neighborhood challenge by Mark Schleifstein
"Concerned Citizens", represented by the Tulane University's Environmental Law Clinic, objected to a Title V Part 70 Operating Permit for a benzene saturation unit at Murphy Oil's Meraux, Louisiana refinery. The Louisiana DEQ issued the air quality permit in October 2009, and "Concerned Citizens" petitioned EPA to Veto the permit.
"Concerned Citizens" filed a deadline lawsuit to compel EPA to respond. "Concerned Citizens" brought the action because the permit fails to require state-of-the-art pollution control technology.
The petition claims the Louisiana DEQ lacks sufficient information to issue the regulatory permit, the application miscalculated the total emissions, and the permit fails to require the more stringent pollution controls mandated by the Clean Air Act.
According to submitted comments, The Meraux Refinery's air permit didnot include emissions from emergency flaring, didnot consider startup, shutdown, and turnaround emissions, and didnot consider all the sulfur content of refinery fuel gas. The citizen's also question the emission increases due to roof landings for the floating roof tanks.
The permit is for a processing unit for low-benzene gasoline products at The Meraux Refinery, formerly owned by Murphy Oil U.S.A., Inc. The benzene saturation unit is to adhere to part of EPA's regulations for the Control of Hazardous Air Pollutants From Mobile Sources ("MSAT2"). Louisiana DEQ 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, shows that Louisiana DEQ miscalculated and that changes to the refinery are “major,” triggering the requirement for more stringent pollution control technology. The petition also shows that Louisiana DEQ failed to gather enough emission data to make a reliable judgment about whether Murphy Oil’s application triggered the requirement for state-of-the-art controls.
Public Hearing Comments
As stated in the July 2009 public hearing, residents wanted to know "what was this going to sound and smell like?" The new unit receives feed from the platformer. When the platformer is down, the refinery requires more steam and, at times, steaming at the Meraux refinery causes excessive noise and vibrations, along with obnoxious chemical odors. What will it sound and smell like when the benzene units shut down? What are these new shut down emissions? The permit also added yet another boiler. Boilers and compressor engines at The Meraux Refinery, at times, cause excessive noise, vibrations, and structural damage claims to revitalized homes, among other problems. What mitigation measures and site selection criteria were reviewed for the new boiler?
"Boiler No. 5 has been a source of exceedingly high noise levels and has caused entire house to shake, which has on some occasions cracked sheetrock. What alternatives has Murphy Oil examined in siting the new boiler No 7 so that it does not cause further damage to our homes?"
"Concerned Citizens" learned the hard way these are the questions to ask, and the Louisiana DEQ must demand answers to these questions as well. Several neighbors submitted written comments to the Louisiana DEQ concerning the already intolerable situation, including: the smell of burnt rubber and other obnoxious smells, times it seems something removed the oxygen from the air, lack of appropriate pollution controls, effects on what little good air is left in the neighborhood, and concern for health and safety.
A public comment time extension was requested along with a public records request for the documents used to provide the information on which Murphy Oil and Louisiana DEQ based its emissions calculations. The application materials state that Murphy Oil based the emission calculations on "personal communication email[s]" and " personal communication phone conversation[s]" between Murphy Oil employees and Murphy Oil's consultant between 2004 and sometime within the last year." "The annual emission rates for NOx and SOx are based on an email from .. (Murphy Oil) to ..... (Trinity Consultants) on February 27, 2007."
Public Hearing July 7, 2009
A public hearing was held upon the applicant’s request. Although the February 25, 2009 application included an increase above the minimum emission rates (MER) listed by the State of Louisiana for certain toxic air pollutants (TAPs), the Louisiana DEQ did not conduct a mandatory public hearing, and the public notice did not include language about known carcinogens and known human reproductive toxins. Murphy Oil indicated the request for the public hearing was more in the interest of Murphy Oil being a member of the community, having presented the application to its own community advisory panel and providing a copy to the public library.
After the public hearing and extended public comment deadline, additional permit information was made available in September 2009, and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality issued the permit in October 2009 without requiring state-of-the-art pollution controls.
Murphy Oil constructed the unit at it's Meraux Louisiana refinery and placed it into service in March 2011. This was after Murphy Oil's agreement with EPA, Wisconsin DNR and Louisiana DEQ on separate pollution issues at The Meraux Refinery, including improvements towards flaring in the neighborhood. The resulting federal consent decree did not address the benzene saturation unit.
Murphy Oil than sought to modify The Meraux Refinery air quality permit again, to revise the maximum operating rate for the cooling tower, so to accommodate the same benzene reducing unit. "In January 2010, the feed pump to the cooling tower was modified to include a larger impeller to accommodate an increase in cooling demand as a result of the benzene reducing unit project." The application added back two natural gas fired compressor engines inadvertently omitted in the November 2007 Clean Fuels II project permit. The November 2007 permit included the tank farm expansion , over the objections of neighbors. Murphy Oil claimed the increased pollution rates from the compressor engine omissions and the cooling tower operating rate increase will not trigger the requirement for more stringent pollution controls.
On September 21, 2011 EPA Administrator Jackson granted the citizen's petition and remanded the permit application to LDEQ for further review. EPA agreed 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."
The EPA also agreed with the citizen's petition that data for certain emission calculations were not included in the permit record, including data for 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 respond to certain public comments with adequate information on its method of calculations for increased pollution rates from the benzene unit. Additionally, LDEQ must provide a more adequate response towards specific prohibition or regulation of emission increases due to roof landings for the floating roof tanks.
EPA's order on Wednesday requires LDEQ reconsider its determinations, review its permit record, and, if found necessary by LDEQ, re-evaluate its emissions calculations used to determine whether Murphy Oil's application triggers the more stringent pollution controls.
The Concerned Citizens’ petition to veto Murphy Oil's air permit raised a separate issue from the permit violations involved in an earlier lawsuit between the Concerned Citizens and Murphy. EPA's veto of Murphy Oil's air permit is based on concerns about appropriate permit limits, as opposed to the permit violations that were at issue in the earlier lawsuit. In that earlier case, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled that Murphy "frequently violated its permits by exceeding emission limitations and continued to violate them after plaintiffs filed suit." Concerned Citizens Around Murphy v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., No. 08-4986 (E.D. La. Feb. 3, 2010). After that ruling, the Concerned Citizens joined Global Consent Decree negotiations with EPA, Murphy, and LDEQ. These negotiations resulted in a Consent Decree that EPA entered with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in February 2011. (The Consent Decree was entered in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin because it governs both of Murphy’s U.S. refineries, one of which is located in Superior, Wisconsin.)
That Consent Decree resolved the lawsuit between the Concerned Citizens and Murphy and the Concerned Citizens were hopeful that the Consent Decree would result in increased cooperation between the Murphy Oil refinery and its neighbors. Neighbors holdout such hope for the new owners.
The Concerned Citizen’s view the petition to EPA to veto Murphy Oil's air permit as part of their ongoing participation in the public permitting process. "Concerned Citizens" is a neighborhood association, whose members are dedicated to the renewal of the community's environment and advocacy for all residents. It's purpose is to protect the public health, safety, environment, and quality of life of Meraux and the surrounding communities in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.