SALT LAKE CITY — Two environmental groups have filed a lawsuit to stop two local oil refineries from expanding among concerns about Utah's air quality.
The Sierra Club and Utah Physicians for Healthy Environment say the refineries are getting away with lax standards, and they want to stop expansion projects at the Tesoro and HollyFrontier refineries refineries in Salt Lake and West Bountiful, respectively.
Even though most of the blame for the haze in Utah falls on the shoulders of people who drive cars and trucks, the two refineries are the target of this lawsuit.
Dr. Brian Moench said that both the quantity and type of emissions make the refineries super polluters.
"There are more toxins in refinery emissions than just typical urban smog," Moench said.
The lawsuit seeks to stop the expansions because the refineries don't comply with new national standards for PM2.5 emissions.
But Bryce Bird, the director at Utah's Division of Air Quality, said the refineries are compliant enough to expand. Moreover, they are subject to future air quality standards that are changing in the coming months.
"We're going to be placing additional requirements that will result in additional emission reductions at those facilities here in the near future," Bird said.
"There are more toxins in refinery emissions than just typical urban smog."
But the Sierra Club's Dan Mayhew said technicalities are too often getting in the way of the need to do something about improving air quality.
"Wasatch Front residents deserve to be protected from the serious air pollution that often plagues our community. We will all suffer for allowing the local refineries to expand and pollute more, especially when the new production will all be sent out of state and won't make a dent in the local price of gas," Mayhew said.
Tesoro does not comment on pending legal matters, but it did say Tuesday that it's proactively addressing air emissions by investing in technology that will reduce sulphur dioxide emissions by more than 1 percent in Salt Lake City County.
They also cited the job opportunity benefits for Utahans that expansion would bring.