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Port Arthur plant fined $350,000; agrees to spend millions to clean up emissions

Courtesy: Beaumont Enterprise Courtesy: Beaumont Enterprise

A Port Arthur chemical plant was fined $350,000 and has agreed to pay millions to clean up their emissions, according to a press release issued Thursday by the  United State Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Regulators claim Flint Hills Resources in Port Arthur "improperly operated its steam-assisted flaring devices in a way that emitted excess amounts of VOCs, including benzene and other hazardous air pollutants. It also alleges violations of EPA regulations designed to limit emissions from leaking equipment." VOC's stands for volatile organic compounds.

Authorities estimate the plant will spend about $28 million to improve its flaring system to ensure gases sent to flares are burned with 98% efficiency.

The Port Arthur mayor gave high praise to the settlement in a statement released by Flint Hills.

"This is a huge unexpected benefit to the citizens of Port Arthur," said Prince. "Everyone wins. The city takes high emission vehicles off the street, many of our residents will have access to energy efficient improvements, and our air is cleaner." 

According to a press release issued by the regulating agencies, the company must also "monitor leaks more frequently, implement more aggressive repair practices, adopt innovative new practices designed to prevent leaks and replace valves with new "low emissions" valves or use packing material to reduce leaks.

Flint Hills will also spend $2 million on a diesel retrofit or replacement project that is estimated to reduce nitrogen oxides and particulate matter by a combined 85 tons, in addition to 39 tons of carbon monoxide, over the next 15 years. The company will also spend $350,000 to purchase and install technologies to reduce energy demand in low income homes.

The company has also agreed to allow the public access to emission levels of air pollutants including benzene that the plant records in a sophisticated system located along the boundaries of the plant. This information will now be available online.

"Communities like Port Arthur are a focus of our enforcement efforts as they have been hit hard by air pollution," said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "By working with EPA, Flint Hills has advanced new air pollution controls that will help EPA bring similar air quality improvements to other American communities. EPA will continue to focus on tough pollution controls and cutting edge technologies in order to reduce the burden of air pollution on Americans who need it most."


Statement from Flint Hills Resources

FLINT HILLS RESOURCES PORT ARTHUR REACHES AGREEMENT WITH ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 

Benefits include Reduced Emissions and Funds for Projects Benefiting Local Community; 

Port Arthur Mayor Calls it a 'Win-Win' 

PORT ARTHUR, Texas, Mar. 20, 2014 - Flint Hills Resources announced today that it has reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice that provides for the installation of state-of-the-art emissions reductions technology and other enhancements at the company's Port Arthur chemical plant. The community benefits from this agreement through reduced emissions and $2.35 million in funding for two projects1 chosen by the City of Port Arthur as focus areas. 

The plant has taken early initiative to complete many of the actions now required as part of the consent decree, including improving the performance of its flares, enhancing its leak detection and repair program, and installing a flare gas recovery system-the first-of-its-kind at a stand-alone U.S. olefins plant. Now the plant is able to capture and reuse gas streams that otherwise may have been emitted from its flares. The company's investment for the agreed plant enhancements is expected to be $44.5 million. 

"This agreement affirms the work we have already done to improve environmental performance and reduce emissions at our Port Arthur chemical plant," said Phil Gaarder, vice president of operations for Flint Hills Resources. "We are pleased to have worked cooperatively with the EPA to reach an agreement that benefits area residents and appreciate EPA's commitment to identifying community projects with local support that will provide for additional emissions reductions in the area," he added. 

Flint Hills Resources will direct $2 million to the City of Port Arthur's Diesel Emissions Reduction Project to implement and complete the renovation of city-owned diesel-engine vehicles, and $350,000 to the Energy Efficiency Project, known locally as the Lighthouse Project, to reduce the energy demand in low income residences. The company also has agreed to pay a penalty of $350,000. 

"This is a huge unexpected benefit to the citizens of Port Arthur," noted Bobbie Prince, mayor of Port Arthur. "Everyone wins. The city takes high emission vehicles off the street, many of our residents will have access to energy efficient improvements, and our air is cleaner." 

About Flint Hills Resources 

Flint Hills Resources, LLC, through its subsidiaries, is a leading refining, chemicals and biofuels company. Its subsidiaries market products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, ethanol, biodiesel, olefins, polymers, and intermediate chemicals, as well as base oils and asphalt. The company, based in Wichita, Kan., has nearly 4,400 employees and strives to create value for customers and society. 
The company's chemical plant in Port Arthur, Texas, is a U.S. producer of ethylene and propylene, which are basic building blocks used to manufacture a variety of components from medical devices to appliance components. More on Flint Hills Resources can be found at www.fhr.com. 








 

FULL PRESS RELEASE

WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that Flint Hills Resources of Port Arthur has agreed to implement innovative technologies to control harmful air pollution from industrial flares and leaking equipment at the company's chemical plant in Port Arthur, Texas. This settlement is part of EPA's national effort to advance environmental justice by protecting communities such as Port Arthur that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution. The company is also required to pay a $350,000 penalty for Clean Air Act violations.

Once fully implemented, EPA estimates that the settlement will reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including benzene and other hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), by an estimated 1,880 tons per year, and will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by approximately 69,000 tons per year.

"This agreement reflects the Justice Department's and the EPA's commitment to alleviate the environmental and human health challenges faced by vulnerable communities," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert G. Dreher of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "This settlement will mean cleaner, healthier air for residents of the Port Arthur area who continue to bear a disproportionate burden from the impacts of industrial pollution."

 

"Communities like Port Arthur are a focus of our enforcement efforts as they have been hit hard by air pollution," said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "By working with EPA, Flint Hills has advanced new air pollution controls that will help EPA bring similar air quality improvements to other American communities. EPA will continue to focus on tough pollution controls and cutting edge technologies in order to reduce the burden of air pollution on Americans who need it most."

 

The settlement requires Flint Hills to operate state‑of‑the‑art equipment to recover and recycle waste gases and to ensure that gases sent to flares are burned with 98 percent efficiency. The company has spent approximately $16 million to implement these required controls on industrial flares.

When the agreement is fully implemented, the company estimates it will spend $28 million to reduce "fugitive" pollutant emissions that may leak from valves, pumps, and other equipment. The company must monitor leaks more frequently, implement more aggressive repair practices, adopt innovative new practices designed to prevent leaks and replace valves with new "low emissions" valves or use packing material to reduce leaks.

To further mitigate pollution impacting the community, the company will spend $2 million on a diesel retrofit or replacement project that is estimated to reduce nitrogen oxides and particulate matter by a combined 85 tons, in addition to 39 tons of carbon monoxide, over the next 15 years. The company will also spend $350,000 to purchase and install technologies to reduce energy demand in low income homes.

For the past several years, Flint Hills has operated a system to monitor the ambient levels of the hazardous air pollutants benzene and 1,3-butadiene at the boundaries of the facility, also known as the "fence line." The company has used the information collected to identify and reduce potential pollutant sources for communities living near the facility. In this settlement, Flint Hills has agreed to make its fence line monitoring data available online to the public.

The complaint, filed by DOJ on behalf of EPA at the same time as the settlement, alleges that the company improperly operated its steam-assisted flaring devices in a way that emitted excess amounts of VOCs, including benzene and other hazardous air pollutants. It also alleges violations of EPA regulations designed to limit emissions from leaking equipment.

The measures required by the settlement will cut emissions of pollutants that can cause significant harm to public health. VOCs are a key component in the formation of smog or ground-level ozone, a pollutant that irritates the lungs, exacerbates diseases such as asthma, and can increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis. Chronic exposure to benzene, which EPA classifies as a carcinogen, can cause numerous health impacts, including leukemia and adverse reproductive effects in women.

Today's settlement is part of EPA's national effort to reduce emissions of toxic air pollutants, with a particular focus on industrial flares and leaks from equipment. Improper operation of an industrial flare can emit hundreds of tons of hazardous pollutants into the air. EPA encourages companies to flare less, and when they do flare, to fully burn the harmful chemicals found in the waste gas.

Flint Hills' plant in Port Arthur manufactures chemicals that are used in a variety of products, including medical devices, automotive parts and appliance components. The Port Arthur facility has the capacity to produce nearly 1.4 billion pounds of ethylene and 700 million pounds of propylene annually.

The consent decree, lodged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval. The consent decree will be available for viewing at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

 

More information about the settlement: www2.epa.gov/enforcement/flint-hills-resources-port-arthur-clean-air-act-settlement

 

For more on recent settlements related to flaring: www2.epa.gov/enforcement/national-enforcement-initiatives

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