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State allows one of Utah's largest oil refineries to expand: Environmental agency promises to fight it

Holly Refining and Marketing Co. got word Monday that Utah’s Division of Air Quality approved its permit to nearly double its capacity of crude oil to 60,000 barrels a day. While the permit means Holly will have to spend millions to retro-fit its facilities to cut air emissions, many environmental agencies are upset with the DAQ’s decision

WOODS CROSS (ABC 4 Utah) - The Holly oil refinery in Woods Cross has received approval from the state to expand.

 

Holly Refining and Marketing Co. got word Monday that Utah’s Division of Air Quality approved its permit to nearly double its capacity of crude oil to 60,000 barrels a day. While the permit means Holly will have to spend millions to retro-fit its facilities to cut air emissions, many environmental agencies are upset with the DAQ’s decision.

 

For years the group Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment has been petitioning the DAQ to crack down on Utah’s biggest polluters and they say the Division of Air Quality’s approval for the oil refinery’s expansion is catastrophic.

 

Dr. Brian Moench told ABC 4 Utah, “Our state government, especially the agencies who have as their mission to protect public health, are simply not doing their job. This is a billion dollar project for Holly and that’s why this has been approved.”

 

DAQ Director Bryce Bird claims this permit is progressive and defensible. He tells ABC 4 Utah that while the permit allows for increases in some pollutants it significantly decreases others.

 

“When we look at our overall permitted levels, it’s actually a 1,000 ton decrease in overall emissions for the pollutants we’re most concerned about along the Wasatch Front,” said Bird.

 

Holly says it’s actually going above and beyond what the federal and state agencies are asking of the company. On top of adding state of the art equipment, they’re also updating their older equipment like switching out four natural gas engines with electric engines.

 

Holly’s Environmental Manager Mike Astin tells ABC 4 Utah, “Because we’re going to have increases on emission from the new facilities, what we’ve tried to do is find places where we could implement new controls on our existing facilities to reduce those hopefully to off-set the increases from the new facility.”

 

One way they plan on doing that is by taking the emissions off of the old unit and running it through the new control devise that will be installed during the expansion process.

 

Astin explains, “In doing that we’re going to eliminate probably the highest source of sulfur dioxide emissions from the refinery.”

 

The state also required Holly to put install higher quality controls than what the federal EPA required of the company.

 

“We’re putting in a wet gas scrubber that removes a whole slew of emissions,” says Astin. “That removes particulate matter. That removes sulfur dioxides, it removes nitrogen oxides.”

 

But even Holly admits while some emissions are going down others will be going up.

 

“SO2, that’s going down close to 200 tons a year. You may see pm10 going up 9 tons a year and pm2.5 is up like 6 or 7 tons a year,” said Astin.

 

Dr. Moench said, “We think that’s outrageous. The thousands of patients that we treat think it’s outrageous, so we intend to fight it.”

 

Moench tells ABC 4 Utah the group intends on filing an injunction to stop the refinery’s expansion.

 

“This is a billion dollar project for Holly and that’s why this has been approved,” said Moench. This is just the latest approved expansion of our biggest industrial polluter by the state agency. In fact, they have never turned down an expansion permit by any of our biggest polluters; that says something right there.”

 

  

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