Flint Hills fined, ordered to fix emissions at Texas plant

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Ethylene and propylene producer Flint Hills Resources was fined $350,000 and agreed to take steps to control air emissions from industrial flares and leaking equipment at its Port Arthur, Texas, facility.

The company estimates it will spend $28 million to reduce pollutants as part of a settlement announced March 20 with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency for Clean Air Act violations.

The federal agencies are cracking down on businesses in communities coping with air pollution as part of a national effort “to advance environmental justice.”

The Port Arthur facility has the capacity to produce about 1.4 billion pounds of ethylene and 700 million pounds of propylene annually.

When all pollution controls are in place there, EPA estimates hazardous emissions of benzene and other pollutants will be reduced by 1,800 tons per year and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 69,000 tons per year.

The company has already spent $16 million to recover and recycle waste gases and to ensure gases sent to the flares are burned with 98 percent efficiency. Next, it will tackle fugitive emissions from leaking valves, pumps and equipment and undergo a diesel retrofit to decrease releases of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and carbon monoxide.

In addition, Flint Hills will make data from its fence-line monitoring of benzene, which the EPA classifies as a carcinogen, and 1,3 butadiene available to the public online.

The goal is to cut toxic air pollutants that exacerbate asthma, increase susceptibility to pneumonia and bronchitis, and can cause cancer, according to EPA spokeswoman Cynthia Giles.

“By working with EPA, Flint Hills has advanced new air pollution controls that will help EPA bring similar air quality improvements to other American communities,” Giles said in a statement.