Judges Appear Skeptical of EPA Permit Requirement for St. Croix Refinery

U.S. appeals court judges on Wednesday appeared skeptical of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's claim that it can require an idled oil refinery in the U.S. Virgin Islands to obtain a costly new pollution permit before restarting operations, Reuters reported. During oral arguments in St. Croix, a three-judge panel of the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals questioned whether the federal Clean Air Act allows the agency to require Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation LLLP, the refinery's owner, to obtain the permit, since they are typically only necessary for new projects. The permit — which the law requires before a new major source of emissions is built or a major modification to an existing source is proposed — could take years to obtain and cost the refiner hundreds of millions of dollars. Port Hamilton sued the EPA in January after the agency said the decades-old refinery would need a new source permit, because the EPA interprets "new source" to include new operations at "long-dormant" and shuttered facilities. Gange said the facility, which has been shuttered for years, most recently after the refinery sprayed a petroleum mist on nearby neighborhoods, qualifies as a new source after being indefinitely idled. Attorney Andrew Simpson, representing Port Hamilton, told the court the EPA has other tools available to ensure existing refineries don’t violate emissions limits, making the costly new permit unnecessary. Read more.