The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a settlement with Marathon Petroleum Corporation May 19 that resolves various alleged Clean Air Act violations at 10 Marathon facilities and requires Marathon to take steps to reduce harmful air pollution emissions at facilities in three states.

EPA and DOJ allege that Marathon failed to comply with certain Clean Air Act fuel quality emissions standards and recordkeeping, sampling and testing requirements. These violations may have resulted in excess emissions of air pollutants from motor vehicles, which can pose threats to public health and the environment, the EPA says. Marathon self-reported many of these issues to EPA.

Under a consent decree lodged in United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Marathon will spend over $2.8 million on pollution controls to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds on 14 fuel storage tanks at its distribution terminals in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

Marathon will also pay a $2.9 million civil penalty and retire 5.5 billion sulfur credits, which have a current market value of $200,000. Sulfur credits are generated when a refiner produces gasoline that contains less sulfur than the federal sulfur standard. These credits can be sold to other refiners that may be unable to meet the standard.

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“This agreement will help reduce air pollution emissions in Ohio and elsewhere,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven M. Dettelbach. “We’re pleased this settlement will protect the air we breathe while promoting the use of next-generation technology.”

In their complaint, EPA and DOJ allege that Marathon:

  • Produced about 356 million gallons of reformulated gasoline at its Texas City, Texas refinery during 2007 that did not meet Clean Air Act standards for reducing volatile organic compounds. Volatile organic compounds are one of the primary constituents of smog and react in sunlight to form ground-level ozone.
  • Produced more than 40 million gallons of gasoline at the Texas City, Texas refinery in 2009 that exceeded standards for sulfur levels. The goal of the Clean Air Act program that regulates sulfur in gasoline is to minimize emissions from vehicles and to ensure emissions control systems function effectively.
  • Sold about 12 million gallons of gasoline that contained elevated levels of ethanol. Excess ethanol in gasoline can harm emission control components on some vehicles and engines.
  • Sold about 1 million gallons of gasoline at its Tampa, Florida terminal in 2013 that exceeded standards for volatility, known as the Reid Vapor Pressure, that help control ground level ozone during summer months. Gasoline with higher volatility results in increased emissions of volatile organic compounds, which contribute to the formation of ground level ozone.
  • Failed to comply with numerous sampling, testing, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements for fuel production. EPA discovered these violations during inspections of Marathon refineries and laboratories in 2008 and 2009. The sampling, testing, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements of the fuels program provide the foundation for EPA’s compliance program.

Marathon will also install geodesic domes, fixed roofs, or secondary rim seals and deck fittings on 14 fuel storage tanks at several of its fuel distribution terminals in order to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds. Marathon is also required to use innovative pollutant detection technology during the implementation of the environmental mitigation projects. Marathon will use an infrared gas-imaging camera to inspect the fuel storage tanks in order to identify potential defects that may cause excessive emissions. If defects are found, Marathon will conduct up-close inspections and perform repairs where necessary.

EPA’s Next Generation Compliance Strategy promotes advanced emissions and pollutant detection technology so that regulated entities, the government, and the public can more easily see pollutant discharges, environmental conditions, and noncompliance. Many of the facilities where the pollution controls will be installed are located in areas that may present environmental justice concerns.