Monday, October 20, 2014

Virgin Islands HOVENSA Refinery Should Be In The Superfund Program

HOVENSA Refinery
The U.S. EPA should place the Virgin Islands HOVENSA Refinery in the Superfund Program

AAEA is recommending that if the site is not restarted as a refinery and the EPA consent decree requirement of $700 million in air pollution control equipment is not timely-installed by HOVENSA or a new owner, the site should be placed in the Superfund Program and the Virgin Islands government should require HOVENSA to put up a $20 billion escrow account to assure contamination clean up.

The site is currently regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Program.  The RCRA designation is not sufficient to protect the health of people who live in the Virgin Islands.  We also believe that EPA's assessment that the contaminated groundwater does not pose a threat to human health is an inadequate assessment.  We will be encouraging residents [Glenn Webster] and organizations in the Virgin Islands to file Preliminary Assessment Petitions to invite EPA in to conduct a Superfund Program assessment.  AAEA believes the site should be entered into the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information System (CERCLIS) and targeted for an Emergency Response.

To add insult to the closure of the refinery, which provided 2,500 jobs to the island, authorities, for the most part, are allowing the people, fauna, flora and natural environemnt to be consistently polluted by a clearly uncontrolled hazardous waste site.  Designating the site as a storage facility does nothing to change this reality.  If the site is being leased out to another entity that is not responsible for the site, but could in fact be contributing to the current uncontrolled releases of hazardous oil, then this only serves to establish that this site needs a more aggressive clean up strategy.

The U.S. EPA and the  Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) are nibbling around the edges of this issue when they should be insisting on clean up.  At a very minimum the Virgin Islands government should require HOVENSA to establish a Clean Up Escrow Account in the amount of $20 billion to assure that funding is available to bring this area back to its original pristine state.

Just this year the DPNR settled several lawsuits initiated in 2005 against HOVENSA  concerning contamination of the South Coast Industrial Area, where the site is located.  The suits sought damages, the government’s investigation and cleanup costs, the performance of environmental cleanup and restoration work, penalties, litigation costs, and litigation fees.  The lawsuits alleged that the defendants’ operations injured and contaminated the public’s natural resources, including potential drinking water, the marine environment, plant life, and wildlife.  Pursuant to the various settlement agreements regarding the former alumina refinery property and HOVENSA refinery, the settling defendants are required to ultimately make cash payments totaling $67,250,000.00.  This amount is woefully inadequate to conduct an appropriate clean up of the facility.

In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice announced that HOVENSA LLC, owner of the second largest petroleum refinery in the United States, agreed to pay a civil penalty of $5.375 million and spend more than $700 million in new pollution controls that will help protect public health and resolve Clean Air Act violations at its St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands refinery. The settlement requires new and upgraded pollution controls, more stringent emission limits, and aggressive monitoring, leak-detection and repair practices to reduce emissions from refinery equipment and process units.

Although the EPA air pollution control consent decree is adequate, the agency should more aggresssively address the very serious surface and groundwater pollution at the facility.   (Office of U.S. Virgins Governor John P. de Jongh, EPA).

Hovensa (Hess) Oil Refinery In The Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands Oil Refinery Should Be Operating (President's Corner)

Hovensa & Environmental Justice

St. Croix Electricity, Water and Energy

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