Illinois EPA asks for court-ordered probe of Citgo refinery fire

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 01, 2013 6:09 PM

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency asked that state's Attorney General to seek a court order compelling Citgo Petroleum Corp to investigate an October 23 fire at the company's refinery at Lemont, Illinois, the agency said in a statement on Friday.

Citgo responded in a statement later on Friday that it looks forward to working the state agency as it repairs and restarts the unit most heavily damaged in the fire.

"Citgo has worked closely with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and all other state and federal agencies since the incident and has voluntarily provided all information that IEPA has requested."

IEPA said it wants Citgo to perform a root-cause analysis of the fire and submit that analysis for review by the state. The statement said the agency also wants Citgo to submit a work plan for cleaning up the site of the fire.

The blaze burned for at least three hours and while it caused no injuries it shut down most of refinery's production.

IEPA spokesman Andrew Mason declined to say if Citgo would be able to restart the 174,500 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery's crude distillation unit, which does the initial refining of oil coming into the plant and provides feedstock liquids to all other units.

Citgo said on Monday it planned to restart the CDU by the end of this week. The company has declined to say if the restart has begun.

The facility's CDU was shut following the fire, which broke out on the closely connected vacuum distillation unit. The VDU was heavily damaged, but Citgo plans to run the CDU while bypassing the VDU.

Mason referred questions about the proposed injunction's effect on the Lemont refinery's operations to the Illinois attorney general's office.

Scott Mulford, spokesman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said IEPA's request for an injunction was being reviewed and it was too early to say what impact a court order might have on the refinery's plans or operations.

IEPA also wants Citgo to provide information about air pollution around the refinery during the fire and the amount of crude oil released.

The company said on Friday its "assessment indicates that there was no impact to the environment, and there is no current risk of endangerment to human health or the environment."

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Alden Bentley, Leslie Gevirtz and Bob Burgdorfer)