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Marathon Petroleum Corporation Clean Air Settlement

(Washington, DC - May 19, 2015)  EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with Marathon Petroleum Corporation today 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. Marathon self-reported many of these issues to EPA.

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Marathon Petroleum Corporation (MPC) is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Ohio and is the fourth largest petroleum products refiner in the United States. MPC’s seven-plant refining network can process approximately 1.7 million barrels of crude oil per day. Marathon Petroleum Company LP (MPCLP), is a Delaware corporation and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of MPC. MPCLP operates as MPC’s terminal and transportation system, and currently distributes MPC’s fuel products concentrated primarily in the Midwest, Gulf Coast and Southeast regions of the United States.

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The settlement resolves an EPA enforcement action against MPC and MPCLP, collectively referred to as “Marathon,” for Clean Air Act violations involving its failure to comply with certain fuel quality standards at several of its refineries and terminals, and its failure to comply with various fuel sampling, testing, and recordkeeping requirements at several of its refineries. The EPA discovered the alleged violations during inspections of Marathon’s refineries in 2008 and 2009, and from information self-disclosed by Marathon. The fuel quality violations involve Marathon’s:

  1. Failure to comply with its emission reduction standards for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at its Texas City, Texas Refinery in 2007;
  2. Failure to comply with the per-gallon sulfur standard for gasoline produced at its Texas City Refinery in 2009;
  3. Illegal distribution into commerce of gasoline that contained greater than 10 volume percent ethanol by several of its terminals over the course of several years; and
  4. Failure to meet Reid Vapor Pressure standards for gasoline distributed from its Tampa, Florida terminal in 2013.  

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Pollutant Impacts

The EPA estimates that Marathon’s standard violations resulted in about 40 excess tons of VOC emissions, including toxics. Air toxics – also known as “hazardous air pollutants” – are those pollutants known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health or environmental effects. VOCs are one of the primary constituents of smog, which react in sunlight to form low-level ozone. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion, and can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. Increased sulfur levels in gasoline reduces the ability of the catalyst to reduce nitrogen oxides and VOCs, including benzene. High levels of ethanol in gasoline can result in increased exhaust emissions and increased evaporative emissions, and can also cause material compatibility, driveability, and operability issues that can result in excess emissions. 

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The consent decree requires Marathon to take action to mitigate harm to human health and the environment as a result of the excess emissions caused by the violations at issue in this case. Specifically, Marathon estimates that it will spend about $3,000,000 to: 1) retire 5.5 billion sulfur credits, and 2) install geodesic domes, fixed roofs, or secondary seals and deck fittings on 14 fuel storage tanks at several of its fuel distribution terminals. These terminals are primarily located in areas that may present environmental justice concerns.

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Health and Environmental Benefits

When inappropriate fuels are used in internal combustion engines, the emissions of pollutants can increase significantly and emission control equipment can be damaged. Notwithstanding improvements in vehicle emission controls, emissions from motor vehicles are a significant portion of all air pollution. The excess emissions that can be linked to the violations at issue in this case are primarily sulfur, nitrogen oxides and VOCs, including toxics.

Generally, failure to sample and test gasoline according to proper procedures and requirements, failure to maintain records, and failure to submit required reports to the EPA are considered significant violations, because they result in 1) a reduced ability by the EPA to know whether the fuel at issue met an applicable standard, or would require substantial government resources in order to determine whether the fuel met the applicable standards; 2) a large potential for increased emissions as a result of fuel being used in an inappropriate location, time period, or vehicle type, with consequential increased emissions; and 3) a large negative overall impact on the integrity of the fuels program.

The environmental mitigation projects required by the consent decree are estimated to reduce VOC emissions, including toxics, by 36.8 tons per year, for each of the years the consent decree remains in effect, over 112 tons of VOCs over the lifetime of the consent decree. Since the projects likely will remain operational after the consent decree is terminated, environmental benefits accruing as a result of these projects are anticipated to continue for many years. 

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Environmental Justice

The EPA’s environmental justice screening process did not indicate any unique or acute environmental justice concerns because the gasoline that Marathon produced was widely distributed. However, the mitigation projects are primarily located in areas that may present environmental justice concerns.

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Civil Penalty

Marathon will pay a civil penalty of $2.9 million.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comments is available at the Department of Justice website.

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For More Information, Contact:

Jeff Kodish
OECA/OCE - Air Enforcement Division
1595 Wynkoop Street (8MSU)
Denver, CO 80202-1129
(303) 312-7153

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