Tesoro agrees to $1.1M penalty in refineries' violations of Clean Air Act

Published: Thursday, May 30 2013 12:30 p.m. MDT

Opponents of a proposed expansion at the Tesoro Refinery voiced their concerns to the state Division of Air Quality. (Ashley Lowery, Deseret News) Opponents of a proposed expansion at the Tesoro Refinery voiced their concerns to the state Division of Air Quality. (Ashley Lowery, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Tesoro will pay $1.1 million in civil penalties in the largest settlement in the history of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's fuel regulations program because of violations at four of its refineries, including one in Salt Lake City.

While the regulatory agency said there was no evidence that there was harm to public health or the environment, the violations under the Clean Air Act undercut its ability to say conventional gasoline produced at the refineries met emission standards.

"EPA’s fuels regulations are vital safeguards that protect our nation’s air quality,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "By taking action against violations of these regulations, EPA is not only protecting people’s health, but is also ensuring a level playing field for refiners that play by the rules."

The EPA’s fuel regulations require that all fuel produced, imported and sold in the United States meet certain standards. Fuel that violates those applicable standards could lead to an increase of harmful pollutants, a concern across the Wasatch Front with its already degraded air quality.

Even taking into consideration the improvements that have been made over the years in vehicle emission controls, the EPA said emissions from motor vehicles continue to make up a substantial portion of all air pollution.

The Utah Division of Air Quality has estimated that tailpipe emissions along the Wasatch Front contribute more than 50 percent to Utah's air pollution problem.

Bryce Bird, division director, said state regulators depend on refineries to follow rigorous standards and ensure that appropriate testing is happening. Although the regulation of fuel occurs at the national level, such violations have local impacts.

"We know in Utah that vehicle fuels are very important to our air quality concerns and solutions," he said. "And we try to rely on those refineries to produce the cleanest burning fuel possible in our area."

The violations at issue in the case reflected a need for better management of data recording, record keeping and reporting, laboratory practices, and sampling and testing protocols at four of Tesoro refineries: Salt Lake City, Mandan, N.D., Anacortes, Wash., and Kenai, Alaska.

Tesoro operates seven refineries with a combined capacity to produce 675,000 barrels of gas a day. It has 1,375 retail stations, 590 of which sell gasoline products under the names of Tesoro, Shell and USA Gasoline

Under the settlement agreement awaiting final court approval, Tesoro has to implement an environmental compliance and auditing plan designed to prevent future violations.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com Twitter: amyjoi16

Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company