Environmental advocates are appealing a decision to issue an air quality permit allowing expansion of the HollyFrontier refinery in Davis County.
The Utah Division of Air Quality has approved HollyFrontier’s proposal to increase production of black and yellow wax from the Uintah Basin. The refinery’s processing capacity is projected to increase from 40,000 barrels per day to 60,000. But Western Resource Advocates is filing litigation appealing the decision on behalf of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake. Joro Walker is senior attorney on the case.
“Here we are in a situation where our air quality is horrendous,” Walker says. “It’s jeopardizing public health every day that we have an inversion. We need to reduce emissions every sector dramatically, and yet this expansion would allow the increase in emissions, and that’s the problem.”
“I don’t disagree with that opinion,” says Bryce Bird, Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality. “That is a challenge for us, and of course it’s not limited to refineries.”
Bird says some types of emissions from the refinery will increase, including hazardous air pollutants and fine particulate matter. But some emissions will go down, like nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. The refinery is required to update equipment and implement additional controls as a part of the permitting process. Bird says HollyFrontier and the Division of Air Quality are both operating within the law.
“The bottom line is once the laws are in place, then people live by the laws, and in this case, the permit was issued based on the regulations that were in place,” Bird says.
Joro Walker contends that Holly Frontier has underestimated the emissions increases that will occur with the expansion and that the refinery will surpass permitted levels of sulfur dioxide because of emissions from flares. Three judges on the Utah Appeals Court will decide on the appeal. In the meantime, HollyFrontier can move forward on expansion plans. Company officials did not respond to a request for comment.