Environmental groups are suing the Utah Division of Air Quality hoping to stop an oil and gas refinery expansion the regulator approved in Salt Lake City. The Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment say the expansion would move the state further out of compliance with federal air quality standards.
Dan Mayhew says the lawsuit filed Monday night is intended to stop Tesoro’s planned Salt Lake City Refinery expansion until the DAQ can guarantee the plan minds federal law. Mayhew is chair of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club. He notes Tesoro is the second biggest industrial point polluter in the Salt Lake Valley, just behind Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Utah Copper.
“So as it stands, the refinery is already a significant provider of air pollution,” Mayhew says. “Our position obviously is that any expansion of the refinery, certainly if it doesn’t meet federal laws is going to exacerbate the existing situation, which is already bad.”
Utah regulators were supposed to submit a plan to the federal government on reducing air pollution back in December. They missed the deadline and still have not presented a proposal.
DAQ Spokesman Bryce Bird declined to comment on the pending lawsuit. But he says because the state has yet to formally approve a new set of regulations the DAQ is required to issue permits based on current rules.
“But under this new regulation process there will be additional requirements placed on those facilities that will result in reduced emissions,” Bird says. “So until those rules are changed, then, the rules that were in place at the time are the one’s we’ll have to implement.”
Bird says the DAQ is in the meantime focusing on smaller industrial and commercial polluters, as well as homes and transportation.
The two environmental groups are also fighting the proposed Holly Refinery expansion in Woods Cross. The public comment period for that plan ends July 25th.
In addition, they plan to file a second lawsuit against the DAQ this fall for failing to require Utah refineries have a “Title V” permit, which is a pollution-policing tool required under the Clean Air Act.”