WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Hess Corporation has agreed to pay an $850,000 civil penalty and spend more than $45 million in new pollution controls to resolve Clean Air Act violations at its Port Reading, N.J., refinery. Once fully implemented, the controls required by the settlement are estimated to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 181 tons per year and result in additional reductions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). High concentrations of NOx and VOCs, key pollutants emitted from refineries, can have adverse impacts on human health, including contributing to childhood asthma, and are significant contributors to smog.
“EPA is committed to protecting communities by reducing air pollution from the largest sources,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement will reduce harmful emissions that impact air quality, protecting the residents of Port Reading and New Jersey.”
“This settlement is the 31st such agreement with petroleum refineries across the nation. Hess joins a growing list of corporations who have entered into comprehensive and innovative agreements with the United States that will result in cleaner, healthier air for communities across the nation,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “For example, this agreement will improve air quality for New Jersey residents by requiring Hess to install advanced pollution control and monitoring technology and adopt more stringent emissions limits.”
The settlement requires new and upgraded pollution controls, more stringent emission limits, and aggressive monitoring, leak-detection and repair practices to reduce emissions from refinery equipment and processing units.
The government’s complaint, filed on April 19, 2012, alleged that the company made modifications to its refinery that increased emissions without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment. The Clean Air Act requires major sources of air pollution to obtain such permits before making changes that would result in a significant emissions increase of any pollutant.
The state of New Jersey actively participated in the settlement with Hess and will receive half of the civil penalty.
The settlement with Hess is the 31st under an EPA initiative to improve compliance among petroleum refiners and to reduce significant amounts of air pollution from refineries nationwide through comprehensive, company-wide enforcement settlements. The first of these settlements was reached in 2000. With today’s settlement, 108 refineries operating in 32 states and territories – more than 90 percent of the total refining capacity in the United States – are under judicially enforceable agreements to significantly reduce emissions of pollutants. As a result of the settlement agreements, refiners have agreed to invest more than $6 billion in new pollution controls designed to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants by over 360,000 tons per year.
The consent decree, lodged in the District of New Jersey, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval.