For Immediate Release, March 25, 2021

Contact:

Jennifer Valiulis, St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA), (340) 340-773-1989, jvaliulis@stxenvironmental.org
Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, (646) 823-4518, ahawke@nrdc.org
Miyoko Sakashita, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7108, miyoko@biologicaldiversity.org

EPA Withdraws Trump-Era Permit for Virgin Islands Oil Refinery

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today withdrew a federal permit for the controversial Limetree Bay refinery on the Caribbean island of St. Croix.

The following is a statement from Jennifer Valiulis, executive director, St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA):

“We are grateful to the Biden/Harris administration and the EPA for this significant first step in commitments to Environmental Justice and meaningful action on climate change. Withdrawing this permit is correcting a grave oversight of the previous administration. The emission levels the permit would have allowed for this facility and the overall lack of accountability for Limetree's impact on the health of the residents of St. Croix and the natural environment were unacceptable. Our island community and environment have suffered for decades due to lax monitoring of emissions, poor enforcement and inadequate protections. We are hopeful that the Biden administration will continue to support St. Croix in paving the way towards an equitable and sustainable future. We are proud that the current administration is holding Limetree accountable. We are optimistic for robust enforcement of our environmental laws."

SEA, the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club filed the petition for reconsideration with the EPA. A similar petition for review is before the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board.

The following is a response on behalf of all of the groups:

“The agency’s action today in withdrawing the permit is a critical first step, but by no means sufficient to protect the island and its inhabitants.

“Even the previous administration determined that the refinery disproportionately burdened the surrounding community, and that its operation was likely to result in harmful health and environmental effects in the community. It is critical that the EPA continue to look into Limetree’s operations, to determine what is necessary to safeguard the community and the island.

“St. Croix’s economic future does not lie with dirty oil refineries. The U.S. Virgin Islands are uniquely vulnerable to the threats that climate change presents, such as rising temperatures, drought, threats to marine resources, and as a result of sea level rise. This is a critical step by the EPA in withdrawing the permit, and we look forward to working with the agency to ensure that the island and its people are protected for generations to come.”

Background
The long-shuttered, pollution-plagued Limetree refinery has been one of the world’s biggest oil-processing facilities.

The refinery, located on the island of St. Croix, where 27% of residents near the facility live below the poverty line, was shut down in 2012 after a series of massive oil spills and air-pollution releases prompted the EPA to issue a $5.4 million fine and order then-owner Hovensa to pay $700 million for new pollution controls.

The new ownership group, Limetree Bay Ventures’ principal investor ArcLight Capital Partners, has ties to former President Donald Trump, whose EPA leadership helped fast-track approval to reopen this facility.

Last year’s reopening was complicated by delays, corroded equipment, a fire, unscheduled flares, an airborne chemical release and more oil spills. Since restarting, the refinery has had an upset incident for which it evacuated employees, a fire and an oil and vapor release that dirtied homes, cars and water cisterns that residents use to collect drinking water.

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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