Chevron to reduce emissions at refinery as part of settlement
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
Chevron U.S.A. has agreed to spend $275 million to reduce emissions at five petroleum refineries around the country, including its Campbell Industrial Park plant, as part of a settlement with the federal government announced yesterday.
Hawai'i, along with Utah, Mississippi and California's Bay Area Air Quality Management District, were parties to the Clean Air Act consent accord filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The suit was initiated by the U.S. Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.
As part of the settlement, Chevron will install and implement measures to reduce emissions at the five refineries by nearly 10,000 tons per year. The company also agreed to upgrade its leak detection and repair practices, implement programs to minimize flaring of hazardous gases, reduce emissions from sulphur recovery plants, and develop plans to ensure the proper handling of hazardous benzene wastes.
The improvements are expected to reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxides by more than 3,300 tons and sulfur dioxide by about 6,300 tons at the five facilities, the EPA said. Both pollutants can cause serious respiratory problems and exacerbate childhood asthma, the EPA said.
Chevron also agreed to pay $3.5 million in fines and spend another $4 million on emission controls and environmental projects around the company's refineries. Hawai'i will receive $800,000 as part of the settlement for a program to reduce diesel particulate emissions, primarily from school and municipal buses.
Albert Chee, Chevron spokesman in Hawai'i, said it was too early to say how much will be spent for improvements at the Campbell Industrial Park plant. But Chee said the company has already taken measures to reduce emissions there.
"There are some allegations that we're not operating the best we can, in an environmentally sound manner," Chee said. "While we disagree with those underlying allegations, we believe that a voluntary settlement provides the best resolution and emphasizes an environmental benefit that is consistent with our ongoing processes to control emissions."
Chee said emissions have been reduced by 44 percent over the past seven years because of voluntary improvements by Chevron.
He did acknowledge that more work will be done to improve emissions and safety at the plant. But he added, "Our environmental performance has been pretty good over time."
Wilfred Nagamine, Clean Air Branch chief of the state Department of Health, agreed that there have been no major problems recently at the Chevron refinery. But he said any new work to reduce emissions is welcomed.
"They're doing a better job of operating it," Nagamine said. "It is an older refinery, so they are looking at making modifications and improvements. With this settlement it will push them much sooner and further."
Chevron isn't the first oil company that has come under the scrutiny of the EPA. Under the agency's Petroleum Refinery Initiative, the EPA has reached settlements with 42 refineries that account for nearly 40 percent of the domestic refinery capacity.
Reach Curtis Lum at 525-8025 or email@example.com.