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Feds Sue Limetree Bay In U.S. District Court Saying It Presents ‘Clear And Imminent’ Danger To Public Health, Environment

CHRISTIANSTED — The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed a complaint in federal court on Monday against Limetree Bay saying that the St. Croix petroleum refinery presents “an imminent and substantial danger to public health and the environment.”

In a stipulation filed simultaneously with the complaint that acknowledges that the refinery is not currently operating and that Limetree Bay does not intend to restart the refinery at the present time, Limetree Bay has agreed to a number of requirements, including the following:

  • Complete all corrective measures that are necessary to eliminate any imminent and substantial endangerment to public health or welfare or the environment posed by the refinery or refinery process units before the refinery or any refinery process unit restarts;
  • Notify the United States and the court no fewer than 90 days before restarting the refinery or any refinery process unit;
  • Install hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and sulfur dioxide (S02) monitors at nine monitoring sites prior to restart of the refinery or any refinery process unit; and
  • Submit a plan for EPA approval to purge hydrocarbons from refinery process units and other equipment at the refinery as part of the process of indefinite shutdown. The hydrocarbon purging plan will include the operation of ambient air monitoring.

“Today’s action shows the Department of Justice’s commitment to enforcing the Clean Air Act and protecting American communities from harmful air pollution,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. 

“EPA is committed to ensuring that Limetree Bay’s activities and operations comply with laws that protect public health,” said Acting Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan for the EPA. “Today’s action and stipulation further strengthen our work to protect communities near this refinery by securing a binding commitment from the company that any restart of operations or initiation of long-term shutdown activities, such as purging gases, must receive EPA’s prior approval. These actions advance EPA’s commitment to environmental justice and to protect clean air for those living in vulnerable and overburdened communities.”

Since February of this year, the refinery experienced multiple major incidents resulting in significant air pollutant and oil releases. Many residents in the surrounding St. Croix community reported becoming sickened by some of the releases.

Following four incidents at the refinery, EPA issued an administrative order (EPA Order) to Limetree Bay Terminals LLC and Limetree Bay Refining LLC on May 14.  The EPA Order issued under Section 303 of the Clean Air Act required Limetree Bay to cease refinery operations; conduct an environmental compliance audit and process area audits of the refinery’s flare system, delayed coking unit, and sulfur recovery unit; and submit a corrective measures plan to address the audits’ findings. 

Under Section 303 of the Clean Air Act, the EPA Order remains effective for 60 days unless the United States files a complaint seeking longer-term relief. By filing today’s complaint, the EPA order is automatically extended by 14 days. The complaint seeks an injunction requiring Limetree Bay to comply with the requirements of the EPA order, to take all measures necessary to eliminate the imminent and substantial endangerment before restarting refinery operations including complying with the corrective measures plan, and other appropriate relief.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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