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Refiners to install pollution controls

Refiners to install pollution controls

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WASHINGTON - Four companies - Valero, Sunoco, Tesoro and Suncor Energy - will install nearly $1 billion in new pollution controls at 18 oil refineries, one-third of them in Texas, in settlements with the government and seven states over compliance with clean air laws.

Valero and Sunoco, responsible for most of the improvements, also will pay fines totaling $8.5 million. The refineries covered in consent decrees filed Thursday in federal courts in Texas and Pennsylvania represent about 15 percent of the nation's refining capacity.

Valero, based in San Antonio, estimates it will cost more than $700 million to install smokestack scrubbers and chemical additives at13 refineries in six states. That includes $5 million to $6 million that Suncor Energy of Calgary, Alberta, will spend on a former Valero refinery in Denver, Valero spokeswoman Mary Rose Brown said. Tesoro, also based in San Antonio, will spend an unspecified amount to clean up a former Valero refinery in Martinez, Calif.

"We really do believe we are in compliance with the Clean Air Act. Most of these infractions occurred before Valero ever owned or operated these facilities," Brown said.

Once all that work is completed within a decade, emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides are expected to drop by 4,000 tons a year and acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide by 16,000 tons, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

Six of the 12 Valero refineries covered under the consent decrees are in Texas: two in Corpus Christi and one each in Houston; Texas City; Three Rivers, south of San Antonio; and Sunray, north of Amarillo.

The two affected Tesoro refineries are in Denver and Martinez, Calif.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a news release that Valero will spend another $11 million for related environment projects at its Texas refineries.

Sunoco, based in Philadelphia, will install$285 million in new controls at four refineries in three states to cut their annual emissions of nitrogen oxides by 4,500 tons and sulfur dioxide by 19,500 tons. Both pollutants also cause serious respiratory ailments and worsen cases of childhood asthma.

Valero also will pay a$5.5 million civil penalty and spend an added $5.5 million on environmental projects. Sunoco will pay a $3 million civil penalty and spend$3.9 million on projects.

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