Groups challenge BP on Toledo Refinery tar sands expansion plans

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - Local and national groups are concerned about the increased use and associated pollution from Canadian tar sands crude oil. They will challenge a new BP temporary reduction permit at a public hearing Wednesday in Oregon.

According to BP's permit application:

"BP-Husky Refining LLC (BPH) Toledo Refinery is proposing some modifications to the existing refinery to increase the flexibility to process a higher percentage of crude oil feedstocks similar to that which will soon be available from BPH's Sunrise oil field development in Canada. This project is called the Toledo Feedstock Optimization (TFO) Project."

BP and Canadian company Husky Energy announced in 2007, a 50-50 joint venture to mine tar sands in Husky's Sunrise Oil Sands Project in Alberta. BP will be doing the refining for this venture at its facility just outside of Toledo. As a result, BP-Husky also announced a massive $2.5 billion expansion of its refinery in Toledo in order to process the crude from Alberta.

"The Ohio EPA persists in its longtime agency culture of collaborating with permit applicants to deny the public the benefit of the true pollution picture, to allow environmental threats to be understood," said Terry Lodge, a Toledo attorney. "This is reminiscent of the USEPA decertification of Ohio's Brownfields program a decade ago, because of OEPA's extraordinary protection of corporate secrecy to prevent the public from learning the facts about polluted land developments."

The groups are concerned about a possible strategy by BP to avoid more public review and emission control requirements if it applies and receives several smaller permits for its tar sands expansions, rather than applying for the comprehensive permit needed for the $2.5 billion expansion.

"We are concerned that BP may be trying to 'piecemeal' the permitting of its $2.5 billion expansion at the Toledo Refinery and thus avoid the proper public right to know, and the best pollution controls required by the Clean Air Act," said Denny Larson with San Francisco-based Global Community Monitor. "We hope that the USEPA is paying close attention to all the permits BP is seeking, because we have no faith in the Ohio EPA to protect public health and the environment."

A recent study of the use of tar sands crude oil in U.S. refineries by ForestEthics found that "U.S. refineries using tar sands generally produce more intense sulfur dioxide air pollution and a heightened health risk in communities living near tar sands refineries."

The groups also cited the EPA's recent announcement of BP's temporary ban from doing new business with the federal government. The agency cited BP's lack of business integrity as a reason, pointing to the company's conduct during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster.

"BP has shown utter disregard for safety with its poor record of safety equipment that resulted in loss of life in Texas City, TX, and the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf, resulting in the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. They have continued the same pattern here, not correcting problems with their blowout preventers at the Toledo Refinery. BP cannot be trusted to keep our air and water - or their own workers - safe," said Toledo activist Keith Sadler.

The public hearing is scheduled to take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Lake Erie Center located at 6200 Bayshore Road in Oregon.

Copyright 2012 Toledo News Now. All rights reserved.