Oil Refinery Must Cut Sulfur Emissions
Wisconsin, January 24, 2002 (ENS) - Murphy Oil USA
"withheld information knowingly and intentionally" from
the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources when it
applied for a permit to modify its refinery at Superior,
Wisconsin, and that omission will cost the company at
least $12 million, state and federal agencies said Wednesday.
Under the terms of a proposed settlement arising from
Clean Air Act violations, Murphy Oil will pay a $5.5 million
civil penalty, the largest ever leveled in Wisconsin in
an environmental enforcement case. The State of Wisconsin
will receive $750,000.
The U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney's office
in Madison, Wisconsin, the Environmental Protection Agency
and the Wisconsin Department of Justice announced that
as part of the settlement, emissions of sulfur dioxide
(SO2) from Murphy Oil's 35,000 barrel a day refinery will
be drastically reduced.
"As a consequence of Murphy Oil's violations, the company
has been emitting SO2 from its sulfur recovery unit up to
20 times the level that would have been allowed if it had
applied BACT [Best Available Control Technology] or complied
with New Source Performance Standards," said U.S. Attorney
Grant Johnson. "This agreement requires the company to comply
with stringent pollution control standards, just as its
Sulfur dioxide is a primary cause of acid rain, formed
when the gas reacts in the atmosphere with water and oxygen
to form a mild solution of sulfuric acid. Acid rain damages
forests and soils, fish and other living things, materials,
and human health.
Murphy Oil also will have to improve its programs to monitor
and repair leaks of volatile organic compounds and prevent
oil spills at the refinery, located at the western tip
of Lake Superior.
As part of the deal, the company must undertake two environmentally
beneficial projects at a cost of approximately $7.5 million
over a five year period to further reduce SO2 emissions
from other refinery process units.
In orders issued on May 18, 2001, and on August 1, 2001
after a 10 day trial, Chief United States District Judge
Barbara Crabb found Murphy Oil liable for violations of
Clean Air Act emission limits and permitting requirements
as well as water permit, oil spill containment and waste
Judge Crabb ruled that Murphy Oil violated the Clean Air
Act when it made major modifications at its refinery without
obtaining the required Prevention of Significant Deterioration
(PSD) permits, part of the EPA's New Source Review program.
When Murphy Oil obtained a PSD permit exemption from the
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, it "withheld
information knowingly and intentionally and that if it
had submitted the withheld materials, they would have
been material to the decision making process," the judge
The New Source Review program requires that an air pollution
source, such as a power plant or industrial complex, install
the best pollution control equipment available when it
builds a new facility or when it makes a major modification
that increases emissions from an existing facility. The
NSR was designed to ensure that new and modified sources
do not hamper progress toward cleaner air.
"The impressive outcome of this case is the direct result
of a successful, cooperative effort by State and federal
officials," said Tom Sansonetti, assistant attorney general
of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources
Division. "Companies that knowingly withhold information
from regulators should be prepared to face the consequences
of their misconduct," he said.
Murphy Oil officials were not immediately available for
comment on the proposed settlement.
commend the State of Wisconsin for partnering with the
federal government to bring this important case to closure,
and for working to make the air cleaner for its citizens
and neighboring states," said EPA Administrator Christie
The settlement, which resolves Murphy Oil's Clean Air
Act, Clean Water Act, and Resource Conservation and Recovery
Act violations prior to the penalty phase of the trial
now scheduled for March 2002, requires the company to
install and operate a tail gas treatment unit to substantially
reduce SO2 emissions from the sulfur recovery unit at
Murphy Oil must now apply for and obtain a Prevention
of Significant Deterioration permit.
The company must comply with stringent SO2 emission limitations
until the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources determines
what the best available control technology is for the
sulfur recovery unit.
Murphy will have to implement a comprehensive and improved
refinery wide program to minimize the emission of volatile
organic compounds from the refinery's pumps and valves
for five years.
Oil storage tanks must be brought into compliance, including
measuring containment areas and increasing their capacity,
The consent decree only resolves Clean Air Act New Source
Review violations at the sulfur recovery unit. It does
not preclude the EPA or the State of Wisconsin from investigating
and bringing enforcement actions for violations of New
Source Review requirements at other units at the refinery,
The new control technologies and programs to be implemented
by Murphy Oil at its refinery will reduce emissions of
sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds, both which
can cause serious health problems for the young and elderly.
Wisconsin Attorney General Jim Doyle said, "The state
continued to work closely with the federal government
in the prosecution of this case. We are pleased this consent
decree will significantly reduce the SO2 emissions from
the refinery and improve the air quality for the citizens
The agreement will be filed with the U.S. District Court
for the Western District of Wisconsin, and is subject
to a 30 day public comment period and final court approval.