EPA Withdraws Trump-era Permit for Virgin Islands Oil Refinery
WASHINGTON (March 25, 2021) — The Environmental Protection Agency today withdrew a federal permit for the controversial Limetree Bay refinery on the Caribbean island of St. Croix.
The following is a statement from Jennifer Valiulis, Executive Director, St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA):
“We are grateful to the Biden/Harris administration and the EPA for this significant first step in commitments to Environmental Justice and meaningful action on climate change. Withdrawing this permit is correcting a grave oversight of the previous administration. The emission levels the permit would have allowed for this facility and the overall lack of accountability for Limetree's impact on the health of the residents of St. Croix and the natural environment were unacceptable. Our island community and environment have suffered for decades due to lax monitoring of emissions, poor enforcement, and inadequate protections. We are hopeful that the Biden administration will continue to support St. Croix in paving the way towards an equitable and sustainable future. We are proud that the current administration is holding Limetree accountable. We are optimistic for robust enforcement of our environmental laws.”
SEA, the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club filed the petition for reconsideration with the EPA. A similar petition for review is before the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board.
The following is a response on behalf of all of the groups:
“The Agency’s action today in withdrawing the permit is a critical first step, but by no means sufficient to protect the Island and its inhabitants.
“Even the previous Administration determined that the refinery disproportionately burdened the surrounding community, and that its operation was likely to result in harmful health and environmental effects in the community. It is critical that the EPA continue to look into Limetree’s operations, to determine what is necessary to safeguard the community and the island.
“St. Croix’s economic future does not lie with dirty oil refineries. The U.S. Virgin Islands are uniquely vulnerable to the threats that climate change presents, such as rising temperatures, drought, threats to marine resources, and as a result of sea level rise. This is a critical step by EPA in withdrawing the permit, and we look forward to working with the agency to ensure that the island and its people are protected for generations to come.”
The long-shuttered, pollution-plagued Limetree refinery has been one of the world’s biggest oil-processing facilities.
The refinery, located on the island of St. Croix, where 27% of residents near the facility live below the poverty line, was shut down in 2012 after a series of massive oil spills and air-pollution releases prompted the EPA to issue a $5.4 million fine and order then-owner Hovensa to pay $700 million for new pollution controls. The new ownership group, Limetree Bay Ventures’ principal investor ArcLight Capital Partners, has ties to former President Donald Trump, whose EPA leadership helped fast-track approval to reopen this facility.
Last year’s reopening was complicated by delays, corroded equipment, a fire, unscheduled flares, an airborne chemical release, and more oil spills. Since restarting, the refinery has had an upset incident for which it evacuated employees, a fire, and an oil and vapor release that dirtied homes, cars, and water cisterns that residents use to collect drinking water.
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St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA) is a US Virgin Islands, nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to empowering St. Croix’s citizens to promote the conservation of environmental resources, provide education, and advocate for environmentally responsible actions that benefit St. Croix.
The NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.8 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.