Tesoro refinery to pay $4 million for inadequate air emission controls for seven yearsBy Denis Cuff, 08/05/2015 02:08:39 PM PDT
MARTINEZ — Saying Tesoro created unlawful and dangerous fumes periodically over a span of seven years, the Bay Area’s clean-air agency is collecting $4 million in penalties from the Golden Eagle refinery in one of its largest-ever pollution settlements.
Tesoro has agreed to pay the penalties for bypassing air pollution controls designed to capture butane, propane and other gas emissions, the agency announced Wednesday.
From 2007 to 2014, the refinery east of Martinez periodically drained gas-laden process water directly to its plant sewer system without first running it through equipment to capture vapors, air officials said.
As a result, officials said, volatile, smog-forming organic gases like butane and propane evaporated into the air at uncontrolled rates.
An aerial view shows the Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery in Pacheco on March 18, 2008. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
The fumes exposed plant workers to risks of explosions and the public to greater risks of smog, the air district said.
“We brought it to their attention several times, and it took a little less than a year to fix the problem,” said Ralph Borrmann, an air district spokesman. “The size of the penalty is related to the delay.”
An air district inspector discovered the periodic bypass during a routine refinery inspection in 2013, and the company fixed the problem in 2014 after repeated pleas to do so, officials said.
Tesoro spokesman Brian Nunnally said the refinery “responded quickly to the cited incidents once they were identified, and has taken corrective measures to avoid their recurrence.”
Tesoro settles Martinez refinery pollution suit for $4 millionBy Kurtis Alexander, August 5, 2015 5:08 pm
Texas-based oil manufacturer Tesoro Corp. has agreed to pay $4 million to settle a lawsuit claiming the company spewed smog- and ozone-producing pollutants at its refinery in Martinez.
Bay Area air quality regulators announced the deal Wednesday after an eight-year investigation found that refinery workers disposed of the plant’s byproducts in sewer and water-treatment facilities without first removing contaminants that could evaporate and pollute the atmosphere.
The emissions of butane and propane hydrocarbon were recorded at the facility from 2007 to 2014, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Local regulations require refineries to treat liquid waste so that volatile compounds are removed.
District officials called Tesoro’s practices “unlawful and dangerous.”
Without admitting liability, the company said it has addressed the concerns of regulators.
“Tesoro takes compliance with environmental regulations seriously and strives to comply at all times,” the company said. “In all cases, Tesoro responded quickly to the cited incidents once they were identified, and has taken corrective measures to avoid their recurrence.”
The company is no longer discharging its waste illegally, according to the district.
“We require Bay Area refineries to control their emissions at every step of their process,” Jack Broadbent, the district’s executive officer, said in a statement. “Through the air district’s aggressive enforcement program, these violations were discovered and this uncontrolled release of air pollution stopped.”
Tesoro operates six refineries in the western United States and can produce up to 850,000 barrels of oil daily.