Kansas Refinery Fined for Violations

The National Cooperative Refinery Association will pay more than $1 million for violations

The National Cooperative Refinery Association (NCRA) has agreed to pay $700,000 in penalties to the United States and the State of Kansas, and perform a series of injunctive relief actions, to settle violations of federal environmental laws and the Kansas State Implementation Plan at its petroleum refinery and underground storage facility in McPherson County, Kan.

As part of a consent decree lodged March 26 in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., NCRA will pay $475,000 in penalties to the United States and $225,000 to the State of Kansas. As a part of the settlement, NCRA has agreed to spend approximately $745,000 on supplemental environmental projects involving the purchase of emergency response equipment and services for the benefit of citizens and emergency response agencies in McPherson County.

NCRA owns and operates an 85,000-barrel-per-day petroleum refinery on Iron Horse Road in the city of McPherson, Kan., and an associated underground product storage facility in the nearby unincorporated community of Conway, Kan.

According to a complaint by the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, NCRA:

- Violated the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) by failing to maintain and operate the refinery’s Unicracker Unit and associated air pollution control equipment in a manner consistent with good air pollution control practices, resulting in a 20-day flaring event that caused significant emissions of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide to the atmosphere.
- Violated the CAA and the Kansas State Implementation Plan by exceeding emission limits contained in a construction permit for the refinery’s Unicracker Unit heater and Hydrogen Unit heater.
- Violated the CAA by failing to fully implement a Risk Management Program at the refinery and the underground product storage facility.
- Violated the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) by failing to make timely reports of releases of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide during four separate flaring events at the refinery, including the previously mentioned 20-day flaring event.
- Violated the EPCRA by submitting incomplete Tier II reports, which are supposed to include the identity and inventory of on-site chemicals, to emergency responders.
- Violated the EPCRA by failing to submit an accurate and complete Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) form to EPA.

The consent decree requires NCRA to perform a series of injunctive relief actions to address its non-compliance issues and enhance future compliance through greater emphasis on the Risk Management Program. These include performing an applicability study at the refinery and underground storage facility, providing detailed tank inspection timelines and information, and documenting the resolution of process hazard analyses and compliance audit findings.

For the CAA violations, the relief involves training for start-up procedures and revision to applicable limits for the refinery’s Unicracker Unit Heater.

Relief associated with the EPCRA and CERCLA violations includes completion of a compliance review for Tier II, TRI and episodic release reports. It also includes the submission of an associated report to EPA, retroactive release reporting, and release report training.

NCRA’s supplemental environmental projects, totaling at least $745,000, are designed to further the goals of EPCRA and the Risk Management Program, which seek to prevent accidental chemical releases, minimize the consequences of accidents that do occur, and enable local emergency responders to plan and respond effectively to chemical accidents.

The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final approval by the court.

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