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Lawsuit asks WA Agencies to Curb Oil Refinery Pollution

March 11, 2011

SEATTLE - Three state agencies have been slapped with a lawsuit charging that they're not doing enough to curb greenhouse gas pollution from five oil refineries in Washington.

The groups that brought the suit in U.S. District Court in Seattle say some of the refineries are operating without current air quality permits, and that the Washington Department of Ecology, the Northwest Clean Air Agency and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency have not required the refineries to upgrade their pollution controls. Attorney Jannette Brimmer with Earthjustice says the agencies were warned last summer that a suit would be filed if they didn't act.

"Four of the five are way, way expired, way past due - and that might be a factor. The entire permitting of these facilities is not being kept up, and any new pollutant controls fall victim to that."

The agencies are supposed to determine what types of control technology are "reasonably available," and require that the oil refineries use them. Brimmer says this has not yet been done for greenhouse gases, even for the one refinery that got a new permit in the past year.

"(The) EPA has been talking about how refineries have some things they can do which reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and actually will result in efficiencies. It ultimately will be a good investment for the refineries themselves."

The Ecology Department says greenhouse gases are a very new addition to the permitting process, and that they will be added to the permits as pollution emitters revise or renew them.

Earthjustice sued on behalf of the Washington Environmental Council and the Sierra Club. They say oil refineries in Anacortes, Blaine, Ferndale and Tacoma combine to create about 8 percent of the greenhouse-gas pollution in the state.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA