One of Utah’s major sources of industrial air pollution, Tesoro Refinery, is on track to get a federal Clean Air Act permit after operating for more than 15 years without one. Utah environmental regulators reached a settlement agreement Tuesday with conservation groups who had sued the state for failing to issue the permit.
Title V of the Clean Air Act requires companies that are substantial air pollution contributors to obtain an operating permit. Utah’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) started issuing those permits in 1998, but Tesoro and four other refineries never got one. In October last year, environmental advocacy groups filed a civil complaint in Third District Court. Tim Wagner is Executive Director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, one of the groups that filed suit.
“Without the Title V permits being updated, we don’t have the wherewithal or the ability to see what Tesoro is doing with their day to day, year to year operations,” Wagner says.
Utah Division of Air Quality Director Bryce Bird says Tesoro has an air quality permit that predates the Title V requirements. He says the problem with the Title V permit is that federal regulations have conflicted with state regulations when it comes to particulate matter known as PM10. Bird says both federal and state environmental protections have been in place at the Tesoro Refinery all along.
“They’ve had to report, they’ve had to keep records, they’ve had to do stack tests, they’ve had to comply with all the underlying requirements,” Bird says. “The only protection that’s lacking was that they were all incorporated into one convenient permit for both the source and the state to inspect against.”
The DAQ was able to reach a settlement in the lawsuit now that they’ve resolved their state implementation plan on PM10 with the feds. That plan will be open for public comment in October. Once it’s approved, Bird says there will no longer be an obstacle to issue a Title V permit. Tesoro officials said in a statement that they are pleased with the settlement, and do not anticipate a change to current operations as a result of the agreement.