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Environmental Groups Take Action to Reduce Oil Companies’ Climate Pollution

August 24, 2010

Washington refineries are responsible for almost 8% of state’s global warming pollution output

SEATTLE, Wash – Today, Washington Environmental Council and the Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club sent a 60-day notice of their intent to file a lawsuit in federal court seeking regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from BP’s Cherry Point oil refinery and four other oil refineries in Washington State. Together Washington refineries account for an estimated 8% of the state’s global warming pollution output, making the sector one of the largest single contributors of greenhouse gas emissions in Washington.

Given the lack of action on climate change at the federal level, the 60-day notice calls on state regulators to move forward and curb global warming pollution.  Submittal of the 60-day notice is a prerequisite to filing a citizens’ suit in federal court under the Clean Air Act. 

"What we have now is an opportunity to make significant reductions in our state’s output of global warming pollution," said Joan Crooks, Executive Director of Washington Environmental Council. "The law is clear – greenhouse gas emissions are polluting our air and right now, they’re endangering our state’s economy and people, and they need to be controlled."

Refineries emit large quantities of global warming pollution in the process of turning crude oil into products such as gasoline, jet fuel, and asphalt.  There are technologies and management practices that would allow the oil refineries to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions, but none of the refineries in the state are currently required to implement these controls.  Although the state has not regulated greenhouse gas emissions from the oil refineries, recent rulings, such as the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, make it clear that greenhouse emissions fall within the Clean Air Act’s definition of air pollutants and are subject to regulation.

"The oil refineries pose a clear threat to the health and welfare of Washington’s residents," said Aaron Robins of the Sierra Club. "These polluters need to clean up their act.  Right now Washington families are the ones getting stuck with the bill as climate change devastates traditional Washington industries like shellfish growing, reduces our snowpack and water supply, and harms our forests and ecosystems.

The 60-day notice was sent to the Department of Ecology, which is responsible for defining air pollution standards, as well as the Northwest Clean Air Agency and Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, which are responsible for implementing Clean Air Act mandates on a regional level.

"Washington law requires oil refineries in the state to use reasonably available methods for controlling their greenhouse gas emissions," explained Joshua Osborne-Klein, an attorney with the law firm of Ziontz, Chestnut, Varnell, Berley & Slonim, which represents the conservation groups. "Unless our state regulators take serious steps to control greenhouse gas emissions from the oil refineries, we’re going to ask the federal courts to step in and ensure that this Washington’s air pollution laws are fully implemented."

Becky Kelley, Washington Environmental Council, 206.631.2602, becky@wecprotects.org
Aaron Robins, Sierra Club Cascade Chapter, 425.442.6726, arobns@gmail.com
Joshua Osborne-Klein, Ziontz, Chestnut, Varnell, Berley & Slonim, 206.448.1230, joshok@zcvbs.com


Click here to view the full text of the 60-day notice of intent.

Washington Environmental Council drives positive change to address our state’s most critical environmental challenges. For more than 40 years, we’ve been pivotal to enacting our most important environmental protections. We do this by building and leading partnerships, mobilizing the public, engaging decision makers, and taking legal action to clean up our water, reduce climate pollution, and ensure healthy and livable communities. To learn more, visit www.wecprotects.org.

The Sierra Club is the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. The Cascade Chapter is its voice for Washington State. Our members are some 25,000 of your friends and neighbors. Inspired by nature, we work together to protect our communities and the planet. To learn more, visit www.cascade.sierraclub.org.