Press Release: Legal Settlement Ensures Tesoro Refinery Must Comply with Clean Air Act Title V

After being sued by conservation and clean air advocacy groups for failing for more than 15 years to issue Tesoro Refinery a federal Clean Air Act permit, the Utah Division of Air Quality has settled the case and agreed to a specific timeline requiring the refinery to update its application and the state to issue the overdue Title V permit.

The litigation was brought by Western Resource Advocates, representing Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake. Title V is a federally enforceable permit providing the public and groups like Utah Physicians and FRIENDS an opportunity to participate in greater oversight of major air pollution sources in order to protect public health and the environment.

Title V Clean Air Act permits were congressionally mandated in 1990 with the intent of reducing air pollution by creating more rigorous and protective permits. The state of Utah took on implementation of federal Title V permitting in 1995 and has allowed Utah’s five oil refineries to operate without permits since that time, until this settlement announced today committing DAQ to develop a Title V permit for Tesoro oil refinery.

“We are very pleased with our legal settlement with the Division of Air Quality ensuring Tesoro will be issued a permit that provides greater oversight and protection from air pollution,” said lead attorney on the settlement Joro Walker, Western Resource Advocates’ Utah Director. “This is great news for public health and the environment along the Wasatch Front. We look forward to implementing the settlement with DAQ.”

“We're glad to see this operation's permitting process finally brought up to date,” said Tim Wagner, Executive Director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “Air pollution from Utah's five refineries is a serious proven threat to public health, especially where we have some of the worst air pollution in the nation at times. Utahns need to know that DAQ is doing all it can to protect public health, and this settlement gives us such reassurance.”

“We hope Utah’s compliance with the Clean Air Act Title V will soon be extended to the four other major refineries,” said Lynn de Freitas, Executive Director of FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake. “Great Salt Lake and the neighboring communities warrant the same protections enforced around the country. Utah deserves clean air and a healthy Great Salt Lake.”

The legal settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in November of 2014 in which Western Resource Advocates represented Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake. The suit was filed in the Third District Court against DAQ for allowing the Tesoro oil refinery to operate without the legally required federal Title V permits.  Title V permits include federally enforceable emissions limits, compliance schedules, monitoring, record-keeping and reporting requirements, and a process whereby the public and the US Environmental Protection Agency can scrutinize and engage in the approval of these pollution permits.  These permits are stronger than other permits issued by the state of Utah.