Top ED: Refinery Investigation, Air Conditioners, and Virtual Summit on Climate Crisis
The EPA sent questions to the refinery’s oil spattering incident, environmentalists want to ban the use of hydrofluorocarbons, and President Joe Biden invited world leaders to a Climate Crisis Virtual Summit.
Trending Topics to Cover:
- The EPA Is Asking a Virgin Islands Refinery for Information on its Spattering of Neighbors With Oil
- An Unusual Coalition of Environmental and Industry Groups Is Calling on the EPA to Quickly Phase Out Super-Polluting Refrigerants
- Joe Biden invites 40 world leaders to virtual summit on climate crisis
The EPA Is Asking a Virgin Islands Refinery for Information on its Spattering of Neighbors With Oil
The Environmental Protection Agency is asking the owners of a recently restarted oil refinery in the U.S. Virgin Islands to turn over information related to a February event that spattered more than 130 homes with oil and contaminated the drinking water for dozens of residents.
In a letter sent earlier this month to executives of the Limetree Bay refinery, federal regulators requested a host of information pertaining to the Feb. 4 flaring incident, including a detailed report of how and why it happened, who was impacted and what was done to mitigate the damage and prevent it from happening again.
The flare, which was the result of a safety valve releasing a buildup of steam inside the refinery, occurred after extremely hot equipment was accidentally exposed to a large amount of water.
The expansive nature of the requests led some legal experts to believe the EPA could be preparing to take additional action against Limetree.
The refinery, located on the territory’s southern island of St. Croix, closed in 2012 after its previous owner agreed a year earlier to a $700 million consent decree with the EPA mandating various environmental and pollution control improvements.
The 2011 consent decree ordered Hovensa, the plant’s previous owner, to spend more than $700 million on pollution control upgrades to reduce emissions and pay for projects that would improve the environment of St. Croix after regulators found that the facility was in violation of the Clean Air Act.
Limetree negotiated with the Trump administration last summer, agreeing to take on full liability of the Hovensa consent decree, but with several Clean Air Act exemptions included and stating it would make “commercially reasonable” efforts to meet all its requirements.The plant reopened earlier this year under a permit granted by the Trump administration in 2018.
The latest investigation into the Feb. 4 flaring event is just one of several developments in recent weeks that have cast doubt on the future of the refinery.
On March 25, the agency withdrew a key air pollution permit for the plant that would have allowed the company to expand its refining operations in the future, citing environmental justice concerns and saying the agency needed to further review how to best safeguard the community.
Last week, Reuters reported that three of the company’s top executives were stepping down. And on Friday, at the behest of the EPA, the Department of Justice asked a federal court to formally transfer the ownership of the 2011 consent decree from the plant’s former owner to its current one, Limetree Bay Ventures.
An Unusual Coalition of Environmental and Industry Groups Is Calling on the EPA to Quickly Phase Out Super-Polluting Refrigerants
A coalition of U.S. manufacturers and environmental organizations is calling on the federal government to quickly phase out the worst climate super-polluting chemicals currently used in air conditioners, refrigerators and other appliances, as well as in aerosols and foam insulation.
Specifically, the groups are calling on the EPA to ban the use of certain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemical refrigerants used in air conditioning, refrigeration systems and other applications that contribute to climate change.
The petitions were filed in response to a recent law passed by Congress to address HFCs that encourages petitioning to give stakeholders a say in which areas they feel the EPA should focus on first.
While some differences remain between the various groups on the timing and scope of emissions reductions, the petitions reflect strong agreement on the need for aggressive federal leadership on climate policy following what they saw as its absence during the Trump administration.
For industry, the desire to act quickly is driven by a need for regulatory certainty. Air conditioning and refrigeration manufacturers worked with the Obama administration to hash out a plan to phase out the use of high global warming potential HFCs, only to have that plan scuttled by a federal court in 2017, a ruling that the EPA under the Trump administration did not challenge.
Following the 2017 ruling, nine states led by California passed their own regulations for the phase down of HFCs with high warming potentials.
Helen Walter-Terrinoni, vice president of regulatory affairs for the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, an industry group, said the petition submitted by her organization would give industry a clear path for future phase downs and would also exceed the greenhouse gas emissions reductions required under the federal regulation.
“The benefit to the environment is an additional half billion [metric] tons equivalent of CO2, and the benefit to the industry is that they have certainty and they know exactly what to do and when to do it,” Walter-Terrinoni said.
The cumulative emissions reductions Walter-Terrinoni says her group’s proposal would achieve would equal an average annual greenhouse gas emissions reduction of taking seven million cars off the road from now until 2036.
Joe Biden invites 40 world leaders to virtual summit on climate crisis
Joe Biden has invited 40 world leaders to a virtual summit on the climate crisis, the White House said in a statement in March.
Heads of state, including Xi Jinping of China and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, have been asked to attend the two-day meeting meant to mark Washington’s return to the front lines of the fight against human-caused climate change, after Donald Trump disengaged from the process.
The start of the summit on 22 April coincides with Earth Day, and will come ahead of a major UN meeting on the crisis, scheduled for November in Glasgow, Scotland.
Biden’s event is being staged entirely online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The president kept his campaign pledge to rejoin the Paris climate agreement on his first day in the White House, after Trump pulled out of the deal.
The return of the world’s largest economy and second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide became effective on 19 February and means almost all countries are now parties to the agreement signed in 2015.
The US has invited the leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which includes the 17 countries responsible for about 80% of global emissions and GDP, as well as heads of countries that are especially vulnerable to climate impacts or are demonstrating strong climate leadership.
The US president has placed global heating at the heart of his agendaand has already made waves domestically by pledging to make the energy sector emissions-neutral by 2035, followed by the economy as a whole by 2050.