Total USA to pay $8.75 million to settle air pollution charges

Total Petrochemicals & Refining USA Inc. agreed to pay $8.75 million to resolve federal charges that it did not comply with a 2007 settlement resolving alleged federal Clean Air Act violations at its Port Arthur, Tex., refinery, the US Department of Justice and US Environmental Protection Agency jointly announced.

They said the Total SA subsidiary did not comply with benzene emissions limits and other requirements under the 2007 settlement from that year until 2011. It also did not perform corrective actions or analyze the cause of more than 70 incidents involving emissions of hazardous gases through flaring, the federal entities said.

EPA said it discovered the alleged violations when it reviewed quarterly compliance reports required under the 2007 settlement. That agreement required Total USA to pay a $2.9 million fine and upgrade the 230,000 b/d refinery to reduce harmful air emissions which violated the CAA. The refiner also was required to upgrade leak detection and repair practices to minimize flaring.

In addition to the fine, DOJ and EPA said the Sept. 20 action extends the requirement that Total USA comply with a lower benzene emissions limit for another 2 years. The enhanced benzene limit, which is 30% lower than the federal limit, was initially required by the 2007 settlement. In addition, Total must hire a third-party to audit its compliance under the settlement, and implement a company task force to monitor its compliance.

The latest settlement, which was lodged in US District Court for Eastern Texas, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval. The claims the settlement resolves are only allegations, and no liability has been determined, DOJ and EPA emphasized.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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