Several Violations Result in $2.2 Million Fine for Refiner

Williams Refining Co., the former owner and operator of a Memphis, Tenn., petroleum refinery, agreed to pay $2.2 million in civil penalties to resolve allegations that the company violated the Clean Air Act (CAA), the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) and EPA announced on March 14.

Williams was the owner and operator of a 195,000 barrel-per-day refinery from the mid-1980s to March 2003. The refinery was purchased by Premcor Refining Group Inc. in 2003 and merged with Valero Energy Co. in 2005. The settlement agreement resolves several allegations, including failure to comply with regulations intended to prevent benzene emissions.

"EPA is committed to ensuring that all people breathe healthier, cleaner air," said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

Williams Refining also agreed to resolve all allegations that the company failed to comply with CAA standards regarding leak detection and repair regulations on equipment in its refinery. The agreement also resolves assertions that Williams Refining failed to properly store hazardous waste as required under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and one violation under the Clean Water Act for an oil pipeline rupture.

"Refineries are not exempt from environmental rules and regulations," said Matt McKeown, acting assistant attorney general for the DOJ's Environmental and Natural Resources Division. "The Justice Department is pleased to settle these allegations and will continue to investigate and prosecute those who fail to comply with environmental laws."

EPA initiated an investigation into the refinery after the company reported less than 10 megagrams of benzene emissions, an assertion that drew suspicion based on the size of the refinery. The CAA requires refineries that discharge more than 10 megagrams per year to manage their wastewater in compliance with the Benzene National Emissions Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants.

In addition, the CAA requires refineries to monitor valves and pumps for leaks, and to repair any leaks discovered. Further violations were discovered during an inspection on Nov. 5 and 6, 2002, and as the result of a pipeline rupture that occurred on Feb. 3, 2002.

A portion of the penalty will be paid to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for violations of the Clean Water Act.

More information about the Williams Refining Clean Air Act settlement can be found at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/caa/williams.html.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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