Story at a glance:

  • The Biden administration shut down a plant that former President Trump supported in the Virgin Islands.
  • The refinery has violated the Clean Air Act with its accidental spills that affect local residents.
  • The Biden administration through the EPA has stopped the plant’s operations for at least 60 days until standards are met.

The Biden administration used its authority to shut down an oil refinery plant, revived by former President Trump, for at least 60 days.

The U.S. Virgin Islands Limetree Bay refinery, which had two prior incidents where spills affected the residents, was told by the White House Friday that under the Clean Air Act it was an imminent threat, The Washington Post reported.


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The enforcement of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to preemptively shut something down is a rarity. 

In 2018, Trump deputies worked alongside the plant to ensure it could be permitted to reopen this year under new owners, producing 200,000 barrels of fuel a day, much to the chagrin of some residents of St. Croix.

For now, those residents will be relieved of the refinery until it can meet the Biden administration’s high expectations.

“It means that voices of the people have finally been elevated to the point that they’re being heard,” Frandelle Gerard, Executive Director of Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism Foundation, said.

EPA's administrator Michael Regan said in a statement the agency is taking steps to ensure the refinery considers the condition of the people due to sulfuric gases and hydrocarbons that were released into the air twice. 

“This already overburdened community has suffered through at least four recent incidents that have occurred at the facility, and each had an immediate and significant health impact on people and their property," Regan said. "EPA will not hesitate to use its authority to enforce the law and protect people from dangerous pollution where they work, live, and play.”

In a statement, the refinery operators said, “We are committed to operating a safe facility. We sincerely apologize for any concern or inconvenience this has caused.”

The refinery was shut down in 2012 for failing to follow the Clean Air Act under its previous owner who settled in a $700-million dispute that claimed his company was breaking various environmental and pollution control improvements regulations, according to Inside Climate News.

The failure of environmental regulatory agencies to more rapidly step in and protect the health of the people is a sad example of environmental racism,” Judith Enck, overseer of the  U.S. Virgin Islands’ EPA  Region 2, said.

“This is a majority-Black island in a U.S. territory. It is located next to public housing. If this refinery were located most anywhere else in the country, it would have been shut down months ago,” Enck said.


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Published on May 15, 2021