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Environmental Protection Agency Withdraws Expansion Permit

On Thursday, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it had revoked an expansion permit for a U.S. Virgin Islands oil refinery granted in 2020. The Limetree Bay refinery can continue operations as per the decision. However, it will halt the planned expansion while the EPA reviews the potential impact on the surrounding.

EPA acting Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan said in a statement, “Withdrawing this permit will allow Environmental Protection Agency 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.” He also said that this decision exemplifies good governance and the EPA’s commitment to addressing critical environmental justice. They will also address the economic concerns in the Virgin Islands with a broad range of stakeholders.

In 2012, the refinery closed over a series of spills and accidents, resulting in the EPA levying more than $5 million in fines. In December, the Trump administration approved the plant’s reopening. Four organizations – Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, the St. Croix Environmental Association, and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) – asked the agency Environmental Appeals Board in February to review the Limetree Bay permit.

The groups wrote that the former Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency failed to address “the disproportionate burden that an environmental justice community will bear and it failed to provide multi-lingual access to information.” The permit was issued on Dec. 2nd, 2020, which will never take effect due to the groups’ timely appeals. However, the withdrawal renders the pleas of the permit moot.

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