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Federal lawmakers from Illinois question Indiana agency's environmental assessment

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and three House Democrats from Illinois asked an Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 official to object to a construction permit which BP Products North America Inc. is seeking to expand its Whiting, Ind., refinery.

Durbin and Reps. Melissa L. Bean, Rahm Emanuel and Janice D. Schakowsky said in a May 30 letter to Bharat Mathur, acting administrator at EPA's Region 5, that they are concerned about possible additional flaring if the BP America division is allowed to proceed with a $3.8 billion modernization.

The project would allow the plant to process more Canadian heavy crude oil and increase its motor fuel production by about 1.7 million gallons a day, a BP America spokeswoman said. The four-year project is designed to shift crude inputs at the 405,000 bbl/day refinery to 90% from 30% Canadian heavy crude, she told OGJ on June 2.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management issued a permit for the project in May which overlooks flaring and possible increases in carbon dioxide and other emissions above previous permit levels, the federal lawmakers charged.

Alleged assumptions

"As you know, the proposed oil refinery expansion project includes three new flares as well as increased use of existing flares. Yet the permit essentially assumes that the new flares will, for the most part, never be used, and for [Prevention of Serious Deterioration and Nonattainment New Source Review], the permit factors in only those emissions that occur when the flare is off (and according to IDEM, a few additional emissions during a few planned startups and shutdowns)," they told Mathur.

IDEM expressed a view in its technical support document addendum that unplanned flaring does not need to be accounted for in a US Clean Air Act netting analysis, Durbin and the three House members continued.

That view is wrong and contrary to the federal law, which does not allow a permitting agency to remove a large emissions category from its calculations entirely, to make an unsupported assumption that such emissions would be netted out based on narrative assurances that the emissions would be minimized, or to completely exclude emissions from unplanned events, they said.

EPA notice cited

"The applicable regulations expressly specify that all (not just planned) startup, shutdown and malfunction emissions must be factored into netting calculations. Particularly in light of EPA Region 5's issuance of a notice to BP's Whiting refinery for flaring violations, we believe that flaring at the expanded Whiting site must be accounted for in the permit," Durbin, Bean, Emanuel and Schakowsky said in their letter.

EPA's Region 5 office notified BP Products North America on Nov. 29 that the company allegedly violated New Source Performance Standards in the Clean Air Act at the refinery by modifying flares without complying with requirements, exceeding sulfur dioxide emissions limits and failing to monitor emissions from several sources.

The notice also said that BP allegedly did not get a permit when it modified the plant's fluidized cracking unit or conduct timely performance tests of hydrogen chloride emissions from its catalytic reforming units. An EPA Region 5 spokesman would not comment on the matter because it is an ongoing investigation.

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