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Article

17 May 2021

Author:
Juliet Eilperin & Darryl Fears, Washington Post

US Environmental Protection Agency orders Virgin Islands refinery to shut down, citing ‘imminent’ health threat

... [T]he Biden administration shut the plant down, citing an “imminent” threat to people’s health after several recent accidents contaminated St. Croix’s drinking water and left hundreds of people sick... The rare move by the EPA, which has invoked emergency powers under the Clean Air Act only three times before, signals the extent to which the Biden administration has demonstrated its commitment to environmental justice. “It means that voices of the people have finally been elevated to the point that they’re being heard,” said Frandelle Gerard, who directs the Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism Foundation and has criticized the refinery.

... In a statement, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the agency took the extraordinary step after Limetree Bay showered oil on local residents twice, spewed sulfuric gases into the surrounding area and released hydrocarbons into the air... “This is a majority-Black island in a U.S. territory. It is located next to public housing. If this refinery were located most anywhere else in the country, it would have been shut down months ago"... [said] Judith Enck, who oversaw the U.S. Virgin Islands for EPA as its Region 2 administrator... “Our children are suffering,” ChenziRa Davis-Kahina said. “This is becoming uncomfortable to a point that we have to put out a hashtag like, ‘We can’t breathe.’ We have to put out hashtags like, ‘Stop killing us.’ We have to put out hashtags to get people to hear what’s happening here in a place that’s supposed to be America’s paradise.”

... On Wednesday, the company announced it was temporarily halting operations after an accident sparked a fire and sent a fine mist of oil over an affluent community to the west, polluting water supplies... The firm said in a statement that it was investigating the incident and would cooperate fully with the EPA order. “We are committed to operating a safe facility. We sincerely apologize for any concern or inconvenience this has caused.”