Indiana: BP Agrees to Precedent-setting Settlement Over Whiting Refinery Pollution Permits
Justice Groups Applaud Landmark Agreement with BP Refinery in Indiana
Expect to Resolve Their Appeal of BP Refinery Permit Soon
(Whiting, IN) Two leading Environmental
Justice groups who appealed the BP Refinery air permit for the Whiting, IN.
facility today applauded the proposed consent decree and improved permit lodged
by the Department of Justice. The Calumet Project and Global Community
Monitor filed a separated appeal of the original permit issued by the State of
Indiana on Environmental Justice grounds, while supporting the appeals filed by
other state and national environmental groups.
Upon the announcement of the BP settlement with the
groups, EPA and other agencies, Calumet Project and Global Community Monitor
issued the following statement:
"We support the consent decree with BP, the
agencies and environmental groups because it will modernize the refinery and
reduce pollution to the neighboring communities. It also creates much
needed accountability to ensure compliance and improvements. Calumet
Project and Global Community Monitor are working to resolve our Environmental
Justice appeal of BP's permit to ensure additional protections and
accountability for impacted communities and hope to announce the results
Both groups remained concerned about U.S. refineries
use of Canadian tar sands crude and hope the settlement sends a message to
other refiners considering its use. That message is clearly, using tar
sands will be far more expensive than any other crude.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Josh Mogerman, NRDC, 312-651-7909
David Jakubiak, ELPC, 312-795-3713
Eric Schaeffer, Environmental Integrity Project, 202-263-4440
Nicole Barker, Save the Dunes, 219-879-3564
Steve Francis, Hoosier Sierra Club, 574-514-0565
Agrees to Precedent-setting Settlement Over Whiting Refinery Pollution Permits
restrictive permit, millions more invested in pollution controls and new
monitors will offer neighboring communities added protection
CHICAGO (May 23, 2012) – The controversy over air
pollution permits awarded by the State of Indiana to expand BP’s refinery in
Whiting has come to an end with a precedent-setting settlement that will cut
emissions from the highly-polluting tar sands oil project and provide stronger
air quality protections for Northwest Indiana and Chicago residents. The
consent decree was signed by state and federal agencies, BP and the consortium
of environmental and community groups who have long asserted that BP’s air
permits did not accurately reflect the pollution realities of the Whiting
“Tar sands are a nasty source of oil that threatens
our climate and also emits dangerous pollution into the communities where it is
refined. Today’s settlement ensure local communities in Northwest Indiana
and Chicago’s South Side will be protected from the worst air pollution
impacts,” said Ann Alexander of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),
lead attorney for the community and environmental groups fighting the permits.
“The permit that BP and the State of Indiana drafted did not reflect reality.
And as the country wakes up to the mess being made by tar sands all over the
country, it will be harder and harder for them to keep trying to play these
The settlement calls for millions of dollars in
added pollution control and monitoring equipment to address increased emissions
associated with the facility’s shift to tar sands oil. The EPA estimates that
the controls will eliminate more than 4,000 tons of regulated pollutants
annually, including dangerous volatiles organic compounds, sulfur oxides and
It also puts air monitors in place that will help
illuminate a broader understanding of emissions from refineries processing
heavy oil. With a number of Great Lakes refineries considering similar
conversions to tar sands, this data will help other communities near these
facilities put appropriate health protections in place.
The challenge to BP’s air permits followed a
previous successful challenge by NRDC and Sierra Club to a tar sands expansion
permit issued for the ConocoPhillips Wood River, Illinois refinery, which was
likewise resolved with a settlement requiring emissions minimization, in
particular from refinery flares. Flares -- large torch-like structures used to
burn gases and release pressure in the refinery --have been shown to emit
thousands of tons of harmful air pollutants a year.
The expansion at BP Whiting adds three new flares,
but BP’s pollution analysis assumed that these new flares would never even be
used. NRDC and the other citizen groups alleged in their challenges, and US EPA
substantially agreed, that BP had committed multiple errors of this nature in
calculating emissions from the proposed expansion to support their conclusion,
agreed to by Indiana, that the overall emission increase was too small to
trigger modern pollution control requirements under the Clean Air Act.
The settlement requires that BP implement a host of
tight, industry-leading pollution control requirements in connection with the
refiner’s ongoing $4 billion expansion project. Some examples include:
equipment on both its new and existing flares which will recover and reuse
waste gases, cutting flaring emissions up to 90%.
emissions from the refinery “coking” process that is being re-tooled to handle
the heavy Canadian crude.
$9.5 million on projects to reduce carbon pollution emissions, which were
expected to increase significantly as a result of the tar sands project.
a $500,000 fund which will be available to local public agencies to reduce
local diesel emissions through a diesel retrofit program.
Collectively, these new controls will cost BP
approximately $400 million to install.
In addition, the refinery will be required to do
monitoring at the fence line for dangerous benzene, toluene, pentene, sulfur
dioxide, hexane, hydrogen sulfide and other sulfur compound emissions and
inform the public with weekly updates available online. Data from these
monitors will shed new light on community impacts of refinery operations,
particularly related to tar sands emissions, that will help to inform future
permitting and regulatory processes.
NRDC represented the local Indiana environmental
organization Save the Dunes in a legal challenge to the insufficient air
pollution permits issued to BP in 2008. Hoosier Chapter of the Sierra Club
(represented by the Environmental Integrity Project) and the Hoosier
Environmental Council together with two Indiana residents (represented by a
local attorney and the Environmental Law and Policy Center) were co-plaintiffs
in the litigation. These citizen organizations also joined in a petition to the
US Environmental Protection Agency calling for the Agency to object to one of
the Indiana permits. Around this same time, USEPA issued a series of Notices of
Violations to Whiting and other BP refineries. The USEPA granted key parts of
the citizen groups’ petition in 2009, and BP began negotiating with the USEPA
and the citizens shortly thereafter.
As part of the settlement, the petitioners agreed
not to challenge the new, more stringent air pollution permit. The settlement,
signed by the State of Indiana, BP, the Department of Justice, EPA, and
environmental groups, will go into effect following a brief public comment
While the citizens’ permit challenge specifically
targeted air pollution from the refining process, its resolution does not
alleviate broader concerns about the refinery’s water emissions, as well as the
use of Canada’s tar sands to produce oil. The groups will continue in
appropriate venues to encourage use of cleaner fuels rather than crude oil
derived from the tar sands. The extraction and refining of tar sands 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. More information on the dangers of tar sands and
other dirty fuels can be found at: http://www.nrdc.org/energy/dirtyfuels_tar.asp
An additional challenge to the refinery’s air
permits brought by separate parties awaits final signoff on a pending
The following are comments from the petitioners
about the final settlement:
“The permit fight was painted as a threat to the
local economy; nothing could be further from the truth,” said Steve Francis,
Chairperson of the Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club. “This agreement forces the
project to integrate more pollution control equipment. That means lessened
health impacts, respiratory problems and more construction jobs. This has been
a job generator; not a job killer.”
“What goes up must come down; the pollution
reductions that result from this settlement benefit the nearby communities in
Northwest Indiana and Chicago, but they are also good for the Lake Michigan
ecosystem too. The refinery sits in the midst of one of the most unique
ecosystems in the world and that needs to be protected too,” said Nicole
Barker, executive director of Save the Dunes.
“The Region has historically borne a large brunt of
our state’s air pollution. This settlement strengthens the health safeguards
for the people of Northwest Indiana from BP-Whiting’s enormous expansion.
A healthier Northwest Indiana also means a more robust work force and a better
place to live, work and play’” said Jesse Kharbanda, Executive Director of the
Hoosier Environmental Council.
"By bringing all of the stakeholders to the
table, we arrived at an agreement that protects the public health, mitigates
environmental impacts and boosts economic growth," said Faith Bugel,
Senior Attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center. "We hope to
continue in this spirit of partnership moving forward."