The Holly oil refinery in Woods Cross is promising to reduce its air pollution significantly at the same time it's expanding to handle twice as much crude oil from eastern Utah.
The Utah Division of Air Quality is ready to approve a permit for the Holly refinery to expand its capacity for the gooey black wax crude oil that comes from the Uintah Basin. The expansion would add new equipment and processes meant to reduce particulate emissions, sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds. At a public hearing in Salt Lake City Thursday evening, United Steelworkers local union leader Casey Wardell urged DAQ officials to give Holly a green light.
Utah Division of Air Quality public information page on Holly refinery expansion
"I've been a critic of Holly-Frontier," Wardell told the hearing, "but in this case I'm strongly in favor of the expansion. The expansion would be an increase in jobs, and you have to understand that, for every manufacturing job, that supports five service level jobs. So it's a huge increase in the employment standards of Utah."
Many other speakers at the hearing were critical of the plan. Some were skeptical of Holly's claim of reducing pollution. Ingrid Griffey with Utah Moms for Clean Air talked about the murky air outside and said nobody's looked at the impact of bringing more of the Uintah Basin crude to the Wasatch Front in diesel trucks.
"As a citizen, I'm being asked to limit my driving," Griffey said. "I'm being told that my children probably shouldn't go outside to play today."
The division will continue accepting public comment on the expansion plan through January 18th.
The Holly refinery has had some significant safety and environmental problems in the past, including an explosion and fire in April, 2008 that damaged homes in the neighborhood and an accident in September, 2012 that sprayed droplets of oil over homes and cars in Bountiful and Woods Cross. Holly won praise from some of the speakers at Thursday's hearing for its prompt response to the September incident, paying for cleanups in affected neighborhoods.