Utah air quality regulators on Tuesday reached a settlement agreement with environmentalists who had sued them over the handling of an operating permit for Tesoro Refining and Marketing Co.'s refinery in Salt Lake City, the city's only refinery. Eventually, similar treatment could impact the state's other four refineries.
At the center of a lawsuit filed last year in Utah's Third District Court is a push for Tesoro to be granted an operating permit under Title V of the federal Clean Air Act. Western Resources Advocates (WRA), representing the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and Friends of Great Salt Lake, filed a lawsuit seeking to have a Title V permitting process applied to Tesoro's refinery.
Western Resources attorneys emphasized that the Title V permit is federally enforceable and provides the public and groups like the two bringing suit with greater oversight of major air pollution sources. Congress mandated the Title V Clean Air Act permits in 1990.
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) reached the agreement Tuesday with the WRA represented environmental groups regarding the permit that its Division of Air Quality (DAQ) eventually must issue. DAQ and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been working on completing a state implementation plan (SIP) for PM 10 (particulate) matter, and that is a key step toward issuing the Title V permit, according to the state officials.
Tesoro's current operating permit predates the Title V process, a DAQ spokesperson said. "Title V does not create new air quality standards or limitations, but it does outline requirements for monitoring, reporting, and record keeping," the state spokesperson said.
"Tesoro has been, and will continue to be subject to all applicable laws and requirements that protect Utah's air and the health of our citizens," said Alan Matheson, DEQ executive director. "That will always be our priority."
WRA officials noted that although federal Title V permitting began 20 years ago, Utah has allowed the state's five refineries to operate without permits since that earlier time. WRA Executive Director Joro Walker called the settlement "great news for public health and the environment" along Utah's Wasatch Mountain front. "We look forward to implementing the settlement with the DAQ."
With the Tesoro settlement now in hand, WRA and its allied groups would like to see the Title V permitting extended to the other refineries in Utah. They argue that will give Utah cleaner air and a healthier environment for the Great Salt Lake.