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Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and Sierra Club file suit to stop refinery expansions

For the first time the Sierra Club is joining forces with the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. Next month they plan on filing an injunction to stop construction of the expansion of Tesoro.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - In the winter it's the inversion and in the summer is the loss of ozone. The pollution puts Utah among the worse in the country for air quality and yet the state is allowing some of the worst polluters to expand.

For the first time the Sierra Club is joining forces with the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. Next month they plan on filing an injunction to stop construction of the expansion of Tesoro.

They just finished shelling out $1.1 million in a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to meet requirements under the Clean Air Act, but here in Utah Tesoro refinery is planning to expand, and they're not the only one. Utah's Division of Environmental Quality has also issued a draft permit for the Holly refinery to grow its operations.

Chairman of Utah’s Sierra Club Dan Mayhew told ABC 4 Utah, "The Sierra Club's question to the Governor and the legislature is when are you going to get serious about taking steps that actually make a difference and when are you going to hold the major polluters accountable?"

The groups claim because Utah is long overdue in releasing its State Implementation Plan, Utah is not in compliance with the national air quality standard for PM2.5 - a fine particle matter that is known to cause serious health issues.

The Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment also point to a new study which shows air pollution could be a leading cause of autism; a major problem here in Utah.

President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment Dr. Brian Moench explained, "When pollution is breathed by anyone, it can actually have a chemical effect on the functioning of their genes, their chromosomes."

According to the Department of Air Quality, the state is developing a plan to reduce PM2.5 pollution which should meet requirements, but they say this can't be determined until the implementation plan is finalized. According to the DAQ’s website that plan was expected back in 2012.

Director of Utah’s Division of Air Quality Bryce Bird told ABC 4 Utah, "We're currently developing new plans which would require additional reductions even from the refineries but the current laws allowed for the expansions that were done."

Still the DAQ says both refineries are within their emissions threshold.

"Their actual emissions are either the same or lower than they were before the expansion,” said Bird.

The Sierra Club and Utah Physicians say they want another look at those findings.

“Our position is that data needs to be reviewed and every aspect of the expansion of the refinery must be taken into consideration,” said Mayhew.

One consideration that's not dealt with in the permitting process is the impact all the trucks that haul the oil into the valley would have on the refineries' emissions, but the DAQ says because of federal clean air guidelines pollutants by stationary sources and vehicle sources are separated and therefore can't be considered when issuing a permit to expand operations.

The groups plan on filing the injunction sometime in August.
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