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BP Signs Settlement To Limit Air Pollutants From Its New Whiting, Indiana Refinery Expansion

BP signed a settlement agreement last week with the state of Indiana, federal agencies, and environmental and community groups that will reduce the amount of air pollution emitted from the company’s expansion of its Whiting, Ind. oil refinery.

Canadian tar sands oil extraction. Image courtesy of the Sierra Club’s Wisconsin John Muir Chapter.

Local communities in Northwest Indiana as well as Chicago residents would be the most immediately effected by any pollution coming from the refinery.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said that “BP’s air permits did not accurately reflect the pollution realities of the Whiting refinery’s expansion” in including tar sands.

“Tar sands are a nasty source of oil that threaten our climate and they also emit dangerous pollution into the communities where they are refined,” said Ann Alexander, NRDC lead attorney for the community and environmental groups fighting the permits.

The settlement agreement calls for millions of dollars in added pollution controls and monitoring equipment to address increased emissions associated with the facility’s use of tar sands oil.

The NRDC estimates that the controls will eliminate about 4,000 tons of regulated pollutants annually, including volatile organic compounds such as sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides.

BP will also be required to put air monitors in place that will help increase information about emissions from refineries processing heavy oil.

“With a number of Great Lakes refineries are considering similar conversions to tar sands, this data will help other communities near these facilities put appropriate health protections in place,” said the NRDC.

The settlement requires that BP implement several pollution control requirements in connection with the ongoing $4 billion expansion project.

These control requirements include:

  • Spending about $9.5 million on projects to reduce carbon pollution emissions, which are expected to increase significantly as a result of the tar sands project.
  • Installing equipment on both new and existing flares that will recover and use waste gases, and are expected to cut flaring emissions by up to 90 percent.
  • Establishing a $500,000 fund that will be available to local public agencies for reducing local diesel emissions through a diesel retrofit program.

Installing all of the new control measures is expected to cost BP approximately $400 million.

The refinery will also be required to monitor its fence lines for the dangerous emissions of gases, including: benzene, toluene, pentene, sulfur oxide, hexane, hydrogen sulfide and other sulfur compounds. The refinery will also be required to provide the public with weekly online updates.

The NRDC believes the “data from these monitors will shed new light on community impacts of refinery operations, particularly related to tar sands emissions” that will provide useful knowledge in effecting “future permitting and regulatory processes.”

The NRDC opposes the extraction and refining of tar sands, claiming that it “produces up to three times more climate-changing emissions than conventional sweet crude oil, uses and pollutes an intense amount of water, and turns pristine forests into wastelands in Canada.”


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