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WASHINGTON -- Valero, Tesoro and Sunoco will install nearly $1 billion in new pollution controls at 20 oil refineries and pay fines totaling $8.5 million in settlements with the government and seven states over alleged violations of clean air laws.
The refineries covered in consent decrees filed Thursday in federal courts in Texas and Pennsylvania represent about 15 percent of the nation's refining capacity.
The Associated Press reports that Valero and Tesoro, each based in San Antonio, will install $700 million in controls to clean up 14 refineries in six states. Once the work is completed, their emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides are expected to drop by 4,400 tons a year and acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide by 16,000 tons.
Sunoco, based in Philadelphia, will install $285 million in new controls to clean up four refineries in four states to cut their annual emissions of nitrogen oxides by 4,400 tons and sulfur dioxide by 19,500 tons. Both pollutants also cause serious respiratory ailments and worsen cases of childhood asthma.
Valero also will pay a $5.5 million civil penalty and spend an added $5.5 million on environmental projects. Sunoco will pay a $3 million civil penalty and spend $3.9 million on projects.
"Valero has worked in cooperation with state and federal regulators to reach this settlement," said Johnny Sutton, U.S. Attorney in San Antonio. "As a result, we avoid a costly trial, save the taxpayers money and secure environmental compliance much more quickly."
The settlements are the 15th and 16th reached under an initiative begun by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department in December 2000, the last full month of Bill Clinton's presidency.
That initiative was begun to enforce a section of the 1977 amendments to the Clean Air Act known as the "new source review" program, intended to force industrial sources of pollution to install state-of-the-art emission controls when they make significant repairs or modifications.
"Sixty-four percent of our nation's petroleum refining capacity now has committed to make significant improvements that will benefit everyone," Thomas V. Skinner, acting enforcement chief of the EPA, said Thursday.
Kelly A. Johnson, an acting assistant attorney general, said the Justice Department "will continue to aggressively pursue actions like these" across the refining industry.
The EPA's inspector general, however, said in a report last year the agency is doing a poor job of tracking compliance with the agreements. Environmentalists also have complained that deadlines in prior settlements were repeatedly extended.
Valero and Tesoro's affected refineries are in Benicia, Martinez and Wilmington, Calif.; Corpus Christi, Houston, Sunray, Texas City and Three Rivers, Texas; Krotz Springs and St. Charles Parish, La.; Ardmore, Okla; Denver, Colo.; and Paulsboro, N.J.
Sunoco's affected refineries are in Philadelphia and Marcus Hook, Pa.; Toledo, Ohio; and Tulsa, Okla.
Under the EPA's Petroleum Refinery Initiative, these settlements bring the number of multi-issue, multi-facility settlements reached with major United States refiners to 15. Other major refiners in similar settlements include Motiva Enterprises, Equilon (Shell) and Shell Deer Park Refining, Marathon Ashland Petroleum, Koch Petroleum Group, BP Exploration & Oil, Chevron, Citgo, Conoco and ConocoPhillips. The agreements provide for a comprehensive, cooperative approach to addressing environmental problems across the industry.