Tentative settlement fines Motiva refinery $500K

Catherine Melancon Nov. 2, 2012, 7:51am

Motiva refinery in Norco, La.

BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has drafted a $500,000 settlement for Motiva Enterprises, LLC on Oct. 3 related to alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at the company's Norco and Convent facilities.

The preliminary settlement gives Motiva 45 days to submit a public notice in the parishes' local publications for public comment and view.

"If there are no comments, we notify the Attorney General that the public notice period has been completed and there have been no comments," said Tim Beckstrom, public information officer at DEQ.

"If comments are submitted, we prepare a response to the comments and submit this to the Attorney General."

The draft settlement states that the public is invited and encouraged to submit written comments to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

Beckstrom said the $500,000 figure was calculated during the settlement negotiations with Motiva.

"By law, penalty and settlement payments go to the Hazardous Waste Clean-up Fund (with the exception of response costs, which go to the Environmental Trust Fund)," Beckstrom said.

In addition to the $500,000 fine, Motiva will donate $103,876.00 to the St. Charles Parish Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for them to purchase two low emission vehicles.

Motiva will also have to donate $50,000 to LDEQ for improvements to the Early Warning Organic Compound Detection System program. Also, an additional $34,707.48 will be allocated for LDEQ's enforcement costs in the draft settlement.

According to the settlement, Motiva's Norco facility is cited for 265 violations. Motiva's Convent facility also had multiple violations.

The violations include improperly obtaining permits, excessive chemical releases, exceeding chemical emission releases, oil spills, valve and hose leaks and flaring incidences.

"The fine is being placed now because negotiations were completed and an agreement was reached," Beckstrom said. "There was no specific major event that caused us to force this fine. This was the outcome to resolve the outstanding violations listed in the settlement."

LDEQ will hold a public hearing regarding the settlement if a written request is filed by 25 members of a governmental subdivision or an association comprised of 25 members who reside in the parish the facility is located in. Also, if the secretary finds a significant degree of public interest in this settlement, a public hearing will be conducted.

Motiva is accused of operating a residue catalytic cracking unit without correct permits.

According to the settlement, "the facility operated the modified RCCU unit without approval from the permitting authority prior to operation of a facility which ultimately may result in an initiation or increase in air contaminants."

"This is the biggest fine I've seen, and I'm happy to see it," Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is an environmental health and justice organization that focuses its efforts on working with communities that are impacted by oil refineries, like Motiva.

"This settlement shows that people in Norco and Convent have been polluted for a decade," Rolfes said in an Oct. 18 Bucket Brigade article. "Half a million dollars doesn't begin to compensate for the harms to the health, environment and compromised potential that have resulted from Motiva's recklessness. This should be just the first step in a serious clamp down on industry that has gone rogue."

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