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U.S. EPA settles with Chevron U.S.A. over Clean Air Act and hazard release reporting violations at El Segundo refinery

Release Date: 10/16/2003
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, U.S. EPA San Francisco, (415) 947-4297; Blain Rethmaier, U.S. Department of Justice, (202) 514-2007; Dean Higuchi, U.S. EPA Honolulu, (808) 541-2711

Penalty is a part of a larger national consent decree for violations in four states, including Hawai'i

LOS ANGELES -- As part of a larger national settlement with Chevron U.S.A., Inc. announced today, the company has agreed to pay an $800,000 penalty for failure to report releases of hazardous substances and to properly implement a risk management program required by the Clean Air Act at its refinery in El Segundo, Calif.

This part of the national consent decree was investigated and pursued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Pacific Southwest regional office in San Francisco. In addition to the penalty, Chevron has also committed $400,000 to supplemental environmental projects to settle the claims at the El Segundo refinery, projects that will directly benefit the city's residents and the environment.

The national settlement between Chevron, the U.S. Department of Justice and the EPA is over the company's alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at petroleum refineries not only in El Segundo, but also at refineries in Kapeolei, Hawai'i and Richmond, Calif., as well as in Mississippi and Utah.

"The EPA places a high priority on ensuring that refineries follow the letter of the law," said Wayne Nastri, the EPA's regional administrator in the Pacific Southwest. "Information about hazardous substance releases is critical for appropriate emergency response and general protection of human health and the environment."

Nastri added that it is also of the utmost importance that refineries not only have risk management plans written, but that they also be fully implemented.

The EPA specifically alleges that at the El Segundo refinery, Chevron failed to immediately notify the National Response Center the nation's dispatch center for reporting oil spills and releases of hazardous substances of 11 separate hazardous substance releases including diethanalomine, nitric oxide and sulfuric acid between Sept. 24, 1999 and March 9, 2001. Notification of the NRC is required by the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.

In addition, the EPA alleges that Chevron at El Segundo failed to immediately notify state and local emergency response officials of 10 separate releases of extremely hazardous substances the releases of diethanalomine, nitric oxide and sulfuric acid and releases of sulfur dioxide. This is a violation of the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act.

Finally, the EPA alleges that Chevron at El Segundo that failed to properly implement a risk management program which is a violation of the federal Clean Air Act.

"We are pleased that Chevron has settled this case," Nastri said. "In addition, as part of the settlement, there will be real benefits for El Segundo and the Los Angeles area."

These direct benefits will take the form of $400,000 in supplemental environmental projects. Chevron will spend $300,000 on diesel emissions reduction projects in the El Segundo area by reducing diesel emissions from fleet vehicles, including enhancement of the availability of ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel for such fleets. Chevron will have one year to propose specific projects, which may include diesel emissions reductions for school bus fleets.

The remaining $100,000 will be spent on defibrillators and air compressors upgrades for El Segundo Fire Department's emergency vehicles. The upgrades are necessary to maintain the department's newly acquired status as a certified Medium Response Department within California's emergency management system.

The national settlement is expected to reduce harmful air emissions by almost 10,000 tons per year from five U.S. petroleum refineries that represent more than 5 percent of the total refining capacity in the United States.

"The emissions reductions required by this settlement will lead to cleaner air and significant environmental and public health benefits," said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas L. Sansonetti. "We expect to continue our strong enforcement efforts and see to it that other refiners will follow suit by improving environmental controls to reduce harmful emissions."

"The settlements benefit not only the environment, but the communities that were directly affected by the pollutants," said John Peter Suarez, the EPA's assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "It goes a long way in leveling the playing field for all companies that are good neighbors in the places where they do business."

The national settlement requires Chevron to spend an estimated $275 million to install and implement pollution control technologies to reduce harmful air emissions from stacks, flares, wastewater vents and leaking valves. Chevron's actions under this settlement will reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxide by about 3,300 tons and sulfur dioxide by about 6,300 tons. These air pollutants can cause serious respiratory problems and exacerbate cases of childhood asthma.

Chevron also will pay an additional $2.7 million civil penalty and spend more than $4 million on further environmental projects in communities around the company's refineries. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District will share in the cash penalties and both the BAAQMD and the state of Hawai'i will realize the benefits of the environmental projects.

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