PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 20, 2014

PA Flint Hills agrees to $2.35 million settlement for emissions violations

Sherry Koonce
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Port Arthur will benefit from a $2.35 million settlement agreement between Flint Hills  Resources of Port Arthur, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The settlement is part of EPA’s national effort to advance environmental justice by protecting communities like Port Arthur that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution.

In Port Arthur’s case, the the Department of Justice on behalf of the EPA, alleges in a complaint that Flint Hills improperly operates its steam-assisted flaring devices in a way that emitted excess amounts of VOCs, including benzene and other hazardous air pollutants. The complaint also alleges violations of EPA regulations designed to limit emissions from leaking equipment at the Port Arthur Flint Hills site.

VOCs are the key component in the formation of smog or ground-level ozone, a pollutant that irritates the lungs, exacerbates diseases such as asthma, and can increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

The EPA classifies benzene as a carcinogen which, if chronically exposed, can cause leukemia and adversely impact reproductive effects in women,

Flint Hills agreed to implement state-of-the-art emissions reductions technology and other enhancements to control harmful air pollution from industrial flares and leaking equipment at the company’s Port Arthur facility, according to press statements issued by Flint Hills and the EPA.

The settlement will fund two projects selected by the city of Port Arthur including $2 million for the city’s Diesel Emission Reduction Project, which is designed to implement and complete the renovation of city-owned diesel-engine vehicles.

Another $350,000 will benefit the Lighthouse Project, which reduces the energy demand in low income homes.

The company has also agreed to pay a penalty of $350,000.

“This is a huge unexpected benefit to the citizens of Port Arthur,” Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince, said.

It is a win-win situation, she said.

“The city takes high emission vehicles off the street, many of our residents will have access to energy efficient improvements, and our air is cleaner,” Prince said.

Once fully implemented, EPA estimates the settlement will reduce emission of volatile organic compounds, including benzene and other hazardous air pollutants by an estimated 1,880 tons per year, and will reduce greenhouse gases by approximately 69,000 tons annually.

The settlement requires Flint Hills to operate state-of-the art equipment to recover and recycle waste gases and to ensure that gases sent to flares are burned with 98 percent efficiency.

Flint Hills has spent about $16 million to implement these required controls on industrial flares.

Flint Hills has also agreed to make its fence line monitoring data available online to the public.

The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval.

The consent decree is available for viewing at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

For more information about the settlement visit www2.epa.gov/enforcement/flint-hills-resources-port-arthur-clean-air-act-settlement.

E-mail: skoonce@panews.com

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