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DNREC issues violation notification to Delaware City refinery

(File/WHYY)

(File/WHYY)

Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has issued a violation notification to the Delaware City Refining Company for transporting crude oil beyond its limitation restrictions.

The DNREC violation notification states in 2013 it issued an ordinance to the company, owned by PBF Energy, allowing it to transfer crude oil only to a location in Paulsboro, NJ—but that it violated that ordinance by since transporting material to other locations.

In 2015, DNREC learned the company shipped to a location other than Paulsboro, after an anonymous source tipped off the Delaware Department of Justice.

Refinery representatives met with DNREC and the state DOJ in November 2015 to discuss the incident, and stated the delivery was a “one-time shipment to an alternative facility due to an unanticipated logistical irregularity regarding the movement of crude oil,” according to the violation notification.

DNREC let the “one-time” occurrence pass. However, after further correspondence with the company suggesting there were other incidents of crude oil transportation, DNREC is now asking the refinery to provide any documentation of its dealings with the shipment of crude oil within 30 days. The violation notification states DNREC currently is not assessing penalties, but reserves the right to take further enforcement. DNREC declined to comment on the violation notification.

A spokesperson for the refinery said the company has not violated any laws.

“Delaware City Refining Company LLC (DCR) has received and reviewed the December 23, 2016 Notice of Violation issued by  the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (“DNREC”),” the email stated.

“As our previous statements indicate, DCR’s position is contrary to DNREC’s finding that a violation has occurred.   We will be communicating and, as appropriate, cooperating with DNREC regarding the NOV to ensure that there is a full consideration of the relevant facts in the enforcement process.”  

Environmentalists have been fighting the company since 2013, when the original ordinance was released.

“This has been a point of frustration for a really long time. It’s been months and months,” said activist Amy Roe.

“I believe the information that DNREC is asking for from the refinery in that letter is what needs to be collected. But nothing has happened yet. There has been no assessment of fines, there’s been no repercussions, there’s been no consequences—so at this point it’s really a notice from DNREC to the refinery, ‘Oh we’re aware that you violated the order and we need information to find out how severe the violations are.’”

She said the transporting of crude oil is dangerous, and poses a risk to the environment in incidents of spills from train to barge. In addition, Roe said even allowing the company to transport to Paulsboro defies the Coastal Zone Act, which prohibits bulk shipments within 275,000 acres bordering Delaware’s shoreline. She and other activists were unsuccessful in their efforts to appeal the 2013 decision, which allows the company to ship to the Paulsboro location.

Roe said she believes the State has not done enough to enforce the laws and hold refineries accountable.

“The state of Delaware is just assuming everything’s okay. They’re not tracking stuff that’s coming in or out of that refinery. But they’re allowing a company to do things, and the company is asked to self-report when something goes wrong. So you’re really just asking for polluters or industrial facilities to let the state know when they’ve messed up or they’ve broken the law, and then the state says, ‘Okay, now we’ll issue the violation,’” Roe said.

“But what we have here is situation where the refinery has a very different interpretation of what the secretary’s order means. They are making it clear they want to be able to transfer crude oil wherever they want without any geographic restriction and now the state of Delaware has to stand behind what the Secretary wrote in 2013.”

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