Justice, Koch strike deal on refinery emissions

The US Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Koch Petroleum Group that will reduce air emissions from three petroleum refineries in Minnesota and Texas.

Under the deal filed last week in US District Court in Minneapolis, Koch will spend $80 million to install pollution-control equipment at two refineries in Corpus Christi, Tex. and one near St. Paul, Minn., reducing emissions from stacks, leaking valves, wastewater vents, and flares.

Koch also will pay a $4.5 million penalty to settle Clean Air Act violations and other environmental claims at its Minnesota refinery. Minnesota joined in the settlement with the US.

Lois Schiffer, assistant US Attorney General, said, "This is the first settlement in a federal enforcement strategy for achieving comprehensive, across-the-board compliance with U.S. refineries. I hope other refineries will take note."

EPA said the agreement will cut nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions from the three refineries 5,200 tons/year through 2008, through the use of upgraded technologies. It said improved leak detection and repair practices and other pollution-control upgrades will also result in significant reductions in smog-causing volatile organic compounds and benzene, a known carcinogen. The agreement also includes measures to improve safety for workers and local communities by reducing the chances for accidental releases of pollutants.

Karen Studders, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency commissioner, said, "Koch's Minnesota refinery has already committed to voluntary reductions, but we believe it's important to have an enforceable agreement that lets everyone know our expectations for further reduction strategies."

The civil settlement calls for actions that Koch will undertake over the next 8 years. It is distinct from Justice's ongoing criminal prosecution against Koch for alleged illegal activity at one of its Corpus Christi refineries. An indictment returned against Koch last September charges that the company conspired to violate the Clean Air Act at the refinery in 1995 and 1996.

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