ConocoPhillips will pay half a billion to clean up refineries

The largest refinery settlement in U.S. history was announced yesterday, as ConocoPhillips, the nation’s largest oil refiner, agreed to spend more than $525 million to clean up nine refineries, a deal that will remove 47,000 tons of harmful pollutants from the air each year. This is the 13th such settlement since 1998. While coal-fired power plants produce far more total pollution — and are fighting much harder against EPA enforcement efforts — refineries can be more harmful to the health of communities where they are located, as their emissions come from low smokestacks and do not readily dissipate. Some critics question the strength of the settlements (California has opted out of this latest, saying it would be a step back from the state’s current regs) and the EPA’s will and ability to enforce them. Nonetheless, says John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Bush administration’s progress in cleaning up refineries “is pretty extraordinary.”