Anchorage – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is raising serious questions about a controversial air quality permit for a BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. facility on the North Slope, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). EPA’s concerns echo earlier criticisms from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) air permit supervisor charged with insubordination for raising these same problems in internal e-mails.
Last month, ADEC Manager John Kuterbach charged Bill MacClarence — professional engineer and a 20-year ADEC employee with an unblemished personnel record — with insubordination for violating a previous order by Kuterbach against communicating regulatory problems to any staff members under MacClarence’s supervision. Following press accounts of the action, the insubordination charge has been left in abeyance.
Now EPA, in reviewing the same draft permit, is raising the same concerns as MacClarence, including –
> Failure to account for tons of hazardous pollutants to be emitted each year;
> Evasion of pollution standards by improperly counting the facility as a separate operation when it is in fact part of a much larger operation; and
> Inadequate air quality monitoring of several aspects of facility operation.
“ADEC cannot make major pollution violations go away by just pretending they do not exist,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Something is seriously wrong with Alaska’s air quality program.”
ADEC must now address the seven pages of adverse EPA comments before finalizing the permit or risk an EPA veto. Many of the problems raised by EPA are not limited to this particular BP permit and apply, to some extent, to hundreds of North Slope petroleum-related facilities.