GREAT FALLS (AP)
State environmental regulators are accusing the Montana Refining Co. Here of violating limits on the release of sulfur dioxide. The state Department of Environmental Quality contends the refinery violated Montana’s Clean Air Act by exceeding the daily limit of 4.15 tons of emissions on one day each in both 2004 and 2005. The refinery also continues to violate a 24-hour limit on sulfur dioxide emissions from two of its boilers, the state contends. State regulators are seeking fines against the company, but both the state and Montana Refining Co. Say they hope to settle the matter without going to court. In a written response to the lawsuit Wednesday, the company said many of the issues raised by state regulators “relate to an interpretation” of the refinery’s air quality permit. The company and the DEQ “have somewhat different interpretations and we are working together to get this straightened out.” Dallas-based Holly Corp. previously owned Montana Refining Co., but Calgary-based Connacher Oil and Gas Ltd. Acquired the business in March. David Rusoff, an attorney for DEQ, said the state’s lawsuit was filed to ensure a statute of limitations deadline was met in a 2004 violation. He said the agency hopes to work out an agreement with the company in the meantime. Rusoff said the only issue he knows of in which the two sides have sharply differing interpretations of the air quality permit is the 24-hour limit. That standard is the one the state contends has been repeatedly violated. The state has been discussing the 24- hour limit issue with Montana Refining Co. For much of this year, he said. The state said the refinery’s air quality permit, issued July 2, 2004, allows the refinery to emit 4.15 tons of sulfur dioxide into the air per day. The refinery violated the sulfur dioxide limit on Oct. 10, 2004, and Sept. 19, 2005, according to the lawsuit. The oil refinery’s state-approved daily sulfur dioxide limit is more than triple that of the proposed Highwood Generating Station east of Great Falls. That coal-fired power plant would emit an estimated 1.21 tons of sulfur dioxide per day, according to a draft state airquality permit. According to the state lawsuit, the refinery is limited to emitting 174 pounds of sulfur dioxide per hour, averaged over 24 hours, into the air from the facility’s No. 1 and No. 2 boilers. The refinery is allowed 5 percent noncompliance. However, the refinery exceeded that during several 24-hour periods in November and December 2004, once in 2005, and numerous times in 2006, according to the lawsuit. “The defendants continue to exceed the 174 pounds per hour, 24-hour average, sulfur-dioxide-emission limit applicable to the MRC facility’s No. 1 and No. 2 boilers,” the state lawsuit alleged. The state contends Montana Refining also falsely claimed to be in full compliance with air quality rules in an annual 2004 compliance certification it submitted in February 2005, and failed to promptly report deviations from the 24- hour average. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Montana Refining Co. Violated limits on sulfur released by burning fuel gas three times in 2005, failed to conduct tests for nickel and hydrochloric acid emissions on time in 2005 and was late in submitting a number of required reports.