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SALT LAKE CITY — Opponents of a proposed expansion at the Tesoro Refinery voiced their concerns to the state Division of Air Quality Tuesday, with one likening the project to selling cigarettes door-to-door.
"There will be residents who die prematurely because of Tesoro's expansion," said Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.
The project would expand two refineries at the border of Salt Lake City and southern Davis County to increase processing capability for black and yellow wax crude oil. The Uintah Basin contains large deposits of these wax crudes, and a new oil pipeline allows area refineries to transport more petroleum to Cedar City and Las Vegas.
A document made available by the Division of Air Quality said the expansion would "result in increased jobs and royalty payments to the state" and "ensure a long-term market for Utah crude, supporting job growth and providing significant tax revenues to the state."
Moench criticized the Division of Air Quality's emphasis on economic benefits, and compared it to supporting selling cigarettes door-to-door as a means of job creation.
"This document speaks volumes about the permitting process," he said. "Since when is the DAQ the department of economic development?"
Moench said the expansion could drive away businesses, hurt real estate values and cause health problems.
"There is no attempt to quantify the health costs of tons of emissions," he said.
Nearly 30 people gave public comments during the 90-minute meeting, with less than 10 speaking in support of the project. All those who made public comments in favor of the expansion were associated with Tesoro.
"They do a great job at safety and also with their environmental policies," said Mark Wade, a Tesoro contractor, before asking who in the audience drove a car, making a point about the need for petroleum.
Dan Riley, vice president of government affairs for Tesoro, said the project would help Utah and wouldn't have the environmental impact some said it would.
"This is a great project for Tesoro, for Salt Lake, and for the state," he said. "As opposed to going out of state, we'll be able to process local crude."
Riley said Tesoro plans to reduce emissions with the project. A gas cleanup unit that would be built would remove additional sulfur dioxide, lowering it by 66 tons, he said.
"As time goes on, we're investing more and we've continued to reduce our emissions," he said.
Although Tesoro expects sulfur dioxide emissions to decrease as a result of the expansion, the Division of Air Quality reported that there would be an increase in actual emissions. However the actual emissions will not exceed the maximum allowable emissions assigned to the refinery, the district reported.
The Division of Air Quality extended the period for public comments to April 23, and questions on the project can be answered by calling John Jenks or Martin Gray of the division at 801-536-4000.