The Environmental Protection Agency is asking the owners of the former Limetree Bay Oil Refinery to answer questions contained in a formal Request for Information sent on Aug. 18. A notice sent by the head of the EPA Response and Prevention Branch includes a warning that full disclosure of the matter in question is required by federal law.
A spokesman for EPA Region 2 says the agency wants details about a pile of smoldering petroleum coke on the grounds of the refinery at Estate Hope on St. Croix. Response and Prevention Branch Chief Douglas Kodama said the agency wants to know how emissions from the smoldering coke affect air quality in and around the plant.
Environmental regulators say they are particularly concerned about a possible release of sulfur dioxide, a noxious gas.
“This letter seeks your cooperation in providing information and documents relating to an incident which occurred, and may still be occurring, at or from the One Estate Hope refinery facility located on St. Croix,” Kodama said. The notice was sent to a Florida-based law firm and a Washington, D.C. firm representing Port Hamilton Transportation and Refining, the new name for the former Limetree Bay Oil Refinery.
Kodama invoked the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), which gives EPA “broad information-gathering authority” when making such inquiries. And he told refinery executives and their lawyers that while they may deem some of the information being sought as confidential, federal law compels disclosure.
Region 2 spokesman John Senn justified the agency’s Request for Information notice in a recently released statement.
“EPA is concerned about the smoldering pile and the recent conveyor belt fire, and we are in active discussion with the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the facility itself to gather more information and determine appropriate next steps, including what direct assistance from EPA may be needed,” Senn said.
Refinery owners were given 14 days to respond in writing by electronic mail.