State regulators have again extended the public comment period for Tesoro's proposed refinery expansion.
On Monday, the Utah Division of Air Quality said it was extending the deadline to June 7 -- partly to accommodate critics who have a beef with the Salt Lake City plant's expansion and who will be required to pursue their concerns in a new appeals system that begins May 8. The comment period was originally set to end in March.
"A person who wishes to challenge an approval order," says a public notice in The Salt Lake Tribune, citing changes made with the Legislature's passage of Orem Republican Sen. Margaret Dayton's SB11 earlier this year, "may only raise an issue or argument during an adjudicatory proceeding that was raised during the public comment period and was supported with sufficient information or documentation to enable the director to fully consider the substance and significance of the issue."
In short, those with a problem with the state's plan to approve the Tesoro expansion must do so by June 7, and they must raise pertinent issues or they lose their opportunity to appeal the director of environmental quality's decision.
At a public hearing last week, staff of the air-quality division fielded comments from an audience of around 130 people, including supporters and opponents. Still, virtually all of the speakers raised concerns not about specific equipment proposed for the upgrade, but about refinery pollution and safety in general.
Under the new appeal process, critics of the state's "Intent to Approve" would have no standing to object unless they provide details about their issues with the state pollution permit.
Tesoro is Utah's largest refinery and, like Holly's oil-processing plant in Woods Cross, it is updating its facilities to process more black wax and yellow wax crude oil from eastern Utah's Uinta Basin.
The Texas-based company says the modifications will mean 4,000 more barrels will be produced a day from its 58,000-barrel-a-day facility. The company also says the changes "will not result in a significant emissions increase" and will even reduce sulfur emissions by nearly 8 percent, about 66 tons per year.
The biggest jump in emissions would be from volatile organic compounds, a key contributor in Utah's summer and winter pollution problems. These compounds would rise by nearly 16 percent, the company has reported.
In this round of review, air regulators say they must consider only the equipment Tesoro is proposing to install during the next two years. They say, under state law, they cannot force an emissions cut under this permit application, because the refinery would be releasing pollution well below its allowed levels -- even with the equipment changes.
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Regulators seek more input on refinery Weighing in on Tesoro's expansion.
The Utah Division of Air Quality has posted information about Tesoro's proposed refinery expansion and how to address those plans during the public comment period that continues through June 7 at http://bit.ly/J9UBew. A computer glitch prevented the notice from being posted on its Web page Monday afternoon.
Copyright 2012 The Salt Lake Tribune. All Rights Reserved.
(Originally published April 25, 2012, in The Salt Lake Tribune.)