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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.

Trump sues National Archives, Jan. 6 committee to block records request

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block the National Archives from releasing White House records to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, citing executive privilege.

Why it matters: It's the latest escalation in Trump's campaign to disrupt the committee's sweeping probe into the circumstances surrounding Jan. 6, including his actions and communications leading up to the Capitol attack.

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID-19 complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.