Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 21, 2022

Contact:

Jennifer Valiulis, St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA), (340) 773-1989, jvaliulis@stxenvironmental.org
Miyoko Sakashita, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 845-6703, miyoko@biologicaldiversity.org

EPA Requires St. Croix Refinery to Obtain New Air Permit Before Restarting

‘Ticking Time Bomb’ Polluted Environmental Justice Community

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands— The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that the oil refinery on St. Croix cannot restart without a new comprehensive Clean Air Act permit, called the Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit.

The refinery is required to reapply for its permit, which would involve the installation of best available technology, new air quality modeling, environmental justice and other impacts analyses, and a new public comment period.

“Our St. Croix community advocated the EPA to assign the more stringent PSD permit for Limetree before it opened the refinery in 2021. At the time, the Trump-era EPA did not require this stronger air permit despite the overwhelmingly clear need for it, especially given the age and dilapidated state of the facility,” said Jennifer Valiulis, executive director of the St. Croix Environmental Association. “Look what happened — it rained oil on our community, polluting our water and food resources. For months we had releases of toxic air pollutants that sickened thousands of people, even causing death. We are relieved by the EPA's commitment to environmental justice by requiring the PSD permit to ensure that any current and future owners of this refinery will be held accountable and pollute less harmful toxins in our beloved community. We can breathe easier — literally and figuratively.”

The St. Croix community has already been exposed to harmful air pollutants from this facility, so this stricter permit requirement is affirmation that community health and welfare must come first. The oil refinery is close to overburdened communities that have already suffered decades of pollution from the refinery, creating a long-standing environmental injustice.

“This dirty refinery should never have been restarted, and I hope this air pollution permit requirement keeps it from causing any more harm to St. Croix residents,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The numerous problems at this facility prove that it can’t operate safely, so it’s time to mothball the refinery.”

“This is exactly what the Clean Air Act was designed for — to protect people against harmful air pollution,” said John Walke, director of clean air for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “In the case of a disgraceful facility like this belching pollution and injuring the surrounding community, the agency was right to step in and prevent the company from operating until it can meet protective standards. This is an historic environmental justice victory and requiring the refinery to apply for a clean air permit will protect the air quality and health of tens of thousands of people.”

The refinery has been called a “ticking time bomb.” A recent inspection report from the EPA found that the refinery poses a risk of explosion or other “catastrophic” release of “extremely hazardous substances” that could harm nearby residents.

The pollution-plagued refinery, built in the 1960s, was one of the world’s biggest oil-processing facilities. After many years of dormancy following a series of massive oil spills and air-pollution releases, it was restarted briefly under the Trump administration’s approval. St. Croix Environmental Association, the Center for Biological Diversity, NRDC and Sierra Club filed a legal appeal when the federal government allowed it to restart.

In 2021 EPA shut the refinery down again after it caused a series of accidents, including raining oil down on nearby homes. The aging refinery has experienced a fire, unscheduled flares, an airborne chemical release and several oil spills.

“We thank Administrator Michael Regan for taking this matter seriously and committing EPA resources to the St. Croix community,” said Jennifer Valiulis.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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