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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.

Go deeper

EPA to ban pesticide chlorpyrifos use on food crops over health concerns

EPA administrator Michael Regan. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday banned the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops after it was linked to neurological damage in children.

Why it matters: Children who have chlorpyrifos, one of the most common pesticides, in their blood were reported to have more developmental delays and disorders than those who do not, according to the National Pesticide Information Center.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

2 hours ago - World

Australian PM pledges $700M for climate change-threatened Great Barrier reef

A green sea turtle is flourishing among the corals at Lady Elliot island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Friday a AU$1 billion ($703 million) investment plan for the Great Barrier Reef.

Why it matters: The nine-year plan for projects including water quality improvement, reef conservation and supporting some 64,000 tourism jobs comes months ahead of this year's federal election. It has been criticized by scientists and environmental groups for failing to tackle climate change.