CountryMark paying $18M for pollution controls

Southwestern Indiana oil refiner CountryMark is spending $18 million on new pollution controls to settle Clean Air Act violations.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that CountryMark will spend the money on improved pollution controls such as flares at its refinery in Mount Vernon, about 20 miles west of Evansville.

Officials alleged CountryMark violated the law when it expanded operations without obtaining proper permits and installing necessary pollution controls.

The CountryMark agreement is the latest in ongoing collaboration between the industry and EPA to reduce air emissions from refineries nationwide.  The EPA reports that since March 2000, settlements have been reached with 107 refineries in 32 states, which represent over 90 percent of domestic refining capacity.

According to the agreed upon plan, the CountryMark refinery will update "grandfathered" permits for process heaters, boilers and the Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit. This will further enhance leak-detection and repair practices. CountryMark will also adopt new strategies for ensuring continued compliance with benzene management requirements under the Clean Air Act. The refiner would also improve its flaring devices, which burn off waste gases, and limit the amount of gases sent through the flares.

"We employ incredibly talented and passionate engineers, managers and advisors," said CountryMark CEO and President Charlie Smith.  "I have a great deal of faith that CountryMark will continue to find unique and innovative solutions to reduce our environmental footprint, while continuing to fulfill our mission of providing our customers with American-made fuels 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."

"These innovative controls include ensuring that pollution control devices, such as flares, are operated properly to minimize pollution emitted into the air and to improve their overall efficiency," Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement.

The state, represented by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, will also receive $110,000 in the settlement that will pay for the removal of asbestos from an old grain elevator in downtown Mt. Vernon. CountryMark will also pay $70,000 to help retrofit diesel-engine school buses.

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