Today, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) represented by the nonprofit law firm Earthjustice, challenged a Clean Air Act permit that allows BP to expand its Cherry Point refinery without adequate air quality protections. The expanded BP refinery will degrade the air quality at Olympic and North Cascades National Parks.
NPCA is urging a state hearings board to reconsider BP Cherry Point’s expansion permit, issued by the Washington State Department of Ecology. The current permit allows more oil to be processed and shipped without air quality protections that are required by law to protect the region’s iconic natural places.
“Locally, BP already has a dirty history when it comes to polluting the air in some of our most spectacular national lands,” said Janette Brimmer, Earthjustice attorney who drafted the lawsuit. “It’s time for Ecology to pull back BP’s expansion permit and take the required steps to improve air quality in our national parks.”
Specifically, BP’s permit fails to conform to the requirements for the Clean Air Act and federal and state regulations to ensure no adverse impacts to the air quality of national parks. The National Park Service determined that the refinery project will adversely impact the national parks.
The BP permit also fails to meet basic Clean Air legal requirements in that it does not require the best available technology to control and reduce air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Such pollutants harm the parks and affect human health. Moreover, the permit also lacks adequate constraints on greenhouse gas pollution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also sharply criticized the department’s work on the permit.
“BP Cherry Point is a major source of unhealthy haze and climate disrupting pollution in the Puget Sound region and negatively affects air quality in our treasured national parks,” said Rob Smith, director for the Northwest region at National Parks Conservation Association. “Washington’s Ecology Department must reconsider BP’s expansion permit and require it to do its part to reduce air pollution that mars our national parks and harms millions of visitors and residents who breathe it.”
Read the legal document.
BP is seeking to expand facilities at its Cherry Point refinery in Whatcom County in a continuing effort by the industry to increase fossil fuel export through the Pacific Northwest.
BP’s permit, at issue, is for new coker heaters at the refinery and several changes that will allow Cherry Point to process more crude oil, primarily heavier crudes from Western Canada—commonly referred to as “tar sands crudes.”
BP estimates that the coker heater project will allow the Cherry Point refinery to process 4 percent more crude oil, or nearly 9,000 more barrels per day.
The Cherry Point refinery is within the air-shed of North Cascades National Park (80km), Olympic National Park (101km), and Mount Rainer National Park (216km). These are Class 1 areas with the greatest level of air quality protection under the Clean Air Act.
The National Park Service has already identified BP as one of the two largest polluters of the air in Olympic National Park. BP has previously escaped requirements to better control air pollutants that affect these national parks.
The State of Washington Department of Ecology issued a permit for BP’s expansion at the Cherry Point refinery that avoids the application of Best Available Control Technology (BACT) for sulfur and nitrogen pollution from this very large refinery.
National Parks Conservation Association, represented by Earthjustice, is challenging state Ecology’s approval of BPs new expansion permit for the Cherry Point refinery for its failure to require proper BACT analysis or impose new controls on these pollutants despite increased emissions. Additionally, the permit fails to conform to the requirements for the Clean Air Act and federal and state regulation to ensure no adverse impacts to the air quality of National Parks.
The appeal is to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.
About the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board:
The Pollution Control Hearings Board acts like a court for appeals of state environmental regulations. The three board members hear appeals from orders and decisions made by the Department of Ecology and other agencies as provided by law. The board’s function is to provide litigants a full and complete administrative hearing, as promptly as possible, followed by a fair and impartial written decision based on the facts and law. The board is not affiliated with the Department of Ecology or any other state agency. The board consists of three members, who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate for staggered six-year terms.