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WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday said it has revoked an expansion permit for the Limetree Bay oil refinery in the U.S. Virgin Islands, citing concerns that the area around the facility is overburdened with pollution.
The decision allows the plant to keep operating but will block ongoing expansion work pending an EPA review to assess measures the facility needs to take to protect nearby residents.
“Withdrawing this permit will allow EPA to reassess what measures are required at the Limetree facility to safeguard the health of local communities in the Virgin Islands, while providing regulatory certainty to the company,” said EPA acting Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan.
Limetree was not immediately available for comment.
The move marks the first big decision by President Joe Biden's EPA to withdraw a permit for a large industrial facility over considerations of environmental justice, which Biden has said would be a big priority for his administration.
The 200,000 barrel per day facility on St. Croix had restarted this year after a decade idle after securing a Clean Air Act “plantwide applicability limit” permit from the Trump administration on Dec. 2, 2020. The permit had allowed it to build additional units without being deemed a new source of pollution, which triggers more stringent pollution controls.
The owner of the refinery, Limetree Bay Ventures, backed by private equity firms EIG and Arclight Capital, challenged requests by the EPA to increase air quality monitoring. The company argued the monitors are not necessary and that it should not have to pay the costs to operate them.
Some local residents told Reuters recently https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-caribbean-refinery-environment-in-idUSKBN2B00DA that since the refinery restarted earlier this year, they have had difficulty breathing along with headaches and watery eyes. REUTERS