CHICAGO (June 6 2008) – In a case that might impact oil refineries around the nation, plans by ConocoPhillips to expand its refinery in Roxana, IL were derailed today when an appeal board of the US Environmental Protection Agency upheld a challenge to the air permit required for the project. The decision sends ConocoPhillips and Illinois EPA, which had granted the permits, back to the drawing board. The legal challenge argued that harmful air pollution from the refinery’s flares, which relieve pressure in the refining process, was not being sufficiently controlled.
The following are comments from Ann Alexander, Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and lead litigator on the challenge. NRDC led the challenge representing American Bottom Conservancy, and Sierra Club was represented by the Environmental Integrity Project.
“This is a huge win for anyone living near a refinery, but especially the communities in the Metro East area and for St. Louis. Excessive emissions from this expanded refinery would have harmed the health of everyone in the region.”
“At a time of record oil profits, this decision ensures ConocoPhillips will invest in protections for the surrounding communities, rather than pushing the cost of pollution onto taxpayers in the form of respiratory illness, hospital bills, and lost time at work. We hope this will become the norm at all oil refineries in the United States.”
“California refineries have been held to a higher standard when it comes to cutting pollution from their flares. There is no reason that people in San Francisco or L.A. should have better protections than people elsewhere in the country. EPA is sending a message to oil refineries around the nation that it is time they clean up.”
“We are not asking for hugely complicated or costly measures. Holding flare emissions down just requires sound engineering and responsible operating practices."
“This expansion project would not do anything to bring down gas prices right now. The ConocoPhillips refinery is expanding to process Canadian tar sands oil, which is profitable only if crude prices stay high. Relief from the pain at the pump is not going to happen until we begin to address our addiction to oil and focus on more efficient cars and clean renewable energy sources.”