EPA withdraws expansion permit for Virgin Islands oil refinery
The Environmental Protection Agency has revoked an expansion permit for a U.S. Virgin Islands oil refinery granted in 2020, the agency announced Thursday.
The decision will allow the Limetree Bay refinery to continue operations but will halt its planned expansion while the EPA reviews the potential impact on the surrounding the largely low-income community.
“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,” EPA acting Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan said in a statement.
“Today’s decision exemplifies good governance and EPA’s commitment to addressing critical environmental justice and economic concerns in the Virgin Islands with a broad range of stakeholders.”
The refinery closed in 2012 over a series of spills and accidents that resulted in the EPA levying more than $5 million in fines. In December, the Trump administration approved the plant’s reopening.
In February, four organizations — the St. Croix Environmental Association, the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Sierra Club — asked the agency’s Environmental Appeals Board to review the Limetree Bay permit.
The former Trump administration’s EPA failed to address “the disproportionate burden that an environmental justice community will bear and it failed to provide multi-lingual access to information,” the groups wrote.
While the permit was issued Dec. 2, 2020, it never took effect due to the timely appeals by the groups. However, EPA’s withdrawal renders the appeals of the permit moot.
“While we are disappointed in the EPA’s decision and believe it is inconsistent with the agency’s previous commitments, it is important to note that the PAL does not affect our current operations,” a Limetree Bay spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.
“Rather, it would have streamlined the permitting process for potential future investment in the refinery to allow Limetree to more quickly respond to market and customer demands, while also imposing tighter emissions limits than our current operating permits.”