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In our opinion: Refinery should be allowed to expand

Published: Thursday, Dec. 12 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

Holly Refining has demonstrated that it will operate responsibly and safely. It should therefore be allowed to proceed without further delay.

Tom Smart, Deseret News archives

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Holly Refining and Marketing Co., which operates a large oil refinery in West Bountiful, has received state approval to expand its operation in order to process 60,000 additional barrels from an oil patch in the Uinta Basin. To earn this approval, it ahs had to install a massive amount of expensive retrofits in order to minimize the environmental impact of its increased capacity. Its efforts have met with the approval of both the federal Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Utah Division of Air Quality.

That is a significant accomplishment.

The amount of regulation of Holly’s industry, both on a state and federal level, is extensive, as it should be. The rigorous requirements reflect the priorities of a nation unwilling to compromise when it comes to public health safety. It is extraordinarily difficult to comply with all these governmental concerns, yet Holly has done so, and it insists its efforts exceed the law's requirements.

Yet many environmental advocates are doing everything possible to fight the expansion.

Several groups insist that Holly’s efforts just aren’t good enough. They claim Holly Refining and Marketing lacks integrity and that it is less than honest about the impacts of its expansion. This seems like an overreach, given the staggering level of scrutiny Holly has been subjected to in order to get this far. It defies credulity to suggest that these independent special interest groups have information that was not available to federal and state governments.

In this case, there is no upside to stopping Holly from going about its business. The oil Holly is expanding in order to process needs to be refined somewhere, so shutting this refinery down would only shift the environmental burden elsewhere. In addition, it would cost Utah 45 permanent new jobs that would be created with the refinery expansion.

It seems likely that any expansion of refinery capacity would meet with opposition from these groups, regardless of how much effort refineries put in to minimizing their environmental impact. Many environmentalists think any expansion of the oil industry is a bad thing, and that the country needs to make the move to alternative fuel sources.

In theory, they’re absolutely right. In practice, such alternatives are not yet ready to shoulder the country’s energy burdens. In the interim, the nation needs to continue to produce and refine fossil fuels, and Holly Refining has demonstrated it will do so responsibly and safely. It should therefore be allowed to proceed without further delay.

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