Energy & Environment

Controversial St. Croix oil refinery to shutter ‘indefinitely’

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A U.S.-owned oil refinery on the island of St. Croix announced Monday that it will remain shut down “indefinitely” after the Environmental Protection Agency ordered it to halt operations in May.

In a statement Monday, Limetree Bay Energy said it has failed to find the necessary capital to restart the Limetree Bay Refinery since May 12, when the EPA ordered the initial 60-day shutdown.

“This was an extremely difficult decision for us, and we are truly saddened to announce suspension of our restart plans for the refinery,” said Jeff Rinker, Limetree Bay’s CEO. “Our personnel have demonstrated tremendous commitment and dedication in restarting the refinery, and we continue to be proud of their hard work. Unfortunately, this is our only option, given the extreme financial constraints facing the Company.”

The refinery, located on the island of St. Croix, had been inactive for years and resumed operations in February. Months later, the EPA ordered it to close its doors after residents of the island reported it had sprayed oil vapor into residential areas. Before its first shutdown in 2012, it was frequently the subject of EPA fines and reports of spills.

“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,” EPA administrator Michael Regan said in May. “EPA will not hesitate to use its authority to enforce the law and protect people from dangerous pollution where they work, live, and play.”

Despite the environmental damage, the refinery also created hundreds of jobs on the island, which suffered a steep dropoff in tourism revenues during the pandemic.

“EPA is and has been focused on the health and safety of the St. Croix community,” Walter Mugdan, acting administrator the EPA Region 2, where the refinery is, said in a statement Monday.

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