May 15, 2021 - Energy & Environment

EPA orders St. Croix oil refinery to cease operations

The Limetree Bay refinery in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, in March 2021.

The Limetree Bay refinery in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, in March 2021. Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday ordered the controversial Limetree Bay oil refinery in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, to cease all operations for at least 60 days.

Why it matters: The EPA said the pause to the massive, complex facility was "due to multiple improperly conducted operations that present an imminent risk to public health" and has alleged that the refinery violated the Clean Air Act by failing to adequately monitor sulfur dioxide levels.

  • The EPA said it had the authority to halt operations under the Clean Air Act if the refinery is "substantially endangering public health, welfare, or the environment."

Context: The 1,500 acre facility sat idle for four years until 2016 when Boston-based private equity firm Arclight Capital Partners acquired the plant and recruited other investors to attempt to resume operations, according to Reuters.

  • Since the attempted restart, the facility has suffered several financial and operational setbacks.

On Wednesday, Limetree Bay voluntarily ceased operations after a flaring event showered homes in nearby communities with oil droplets.

What they're saying: "Today, I ordered Limetree Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands to immediately pause all operations until the facility can operate safely & legally. ⁦[EPA] will not hesitate to step in to protect communities disproportionately burdened by pollution," EPA administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

  • "This already overburdened community has suffered through at least four recent incidents that have occurred at the facility, and each had an immediate and significant health impact on people and their property. Unacceptable," Regan added.

The other side: "Limetree sincerely apologizes for the impact this has caused the community and will continue to assess the impact and advise if additional neighborhoods are affected," the company said Thursday.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that the EPA ordered the refinery cease operation for 60 days.

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