Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 13, 2016


Maya Golden-Krasner, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 215-3729,
Tom Frantz, Association of Irritated Residents, (661) 910-7734,
Jonathon Berman, Sierra Club, (202) 495-3033,
Noah Garrison, Climate Change Law Foundation, (415) 602-6223,

Lawsuit Challenges EPA Inaction on Dangerously Inadequate Air Pollution Plan for
Alon Refinery in California's San Joaquin Valley

Valley Residents Already Breathe Some of Nation’s Smoggiest Air

BAKERSFIELD, Calif.— Concerned citizens and conservation groups today sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to protect the San Joaquin Valley’s air from the polluting Alon oil refinery project in Bakersfield, Calif. Valley residents already breathe some of the nation’s smoggiest air.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Association of Irritated Residents, the Sierra Club, and Climate Change Law Foundation, seeks to compel EPA administrator Gina McCarthy to fulfill mandatory duties under the Clean Air Act to respond to the groups’ public-health objections to a permit issued by local air officials for the Alon USA — Bakersfield Refinery Crude Oil Flexibility Project.

The permit allows Alon to resume refining and expand the refinery’s rail terminal to receive hundreds of tank cars a day and up to 63.1 million barrels of crude oil a year. But the permit approved by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District failed to require Alon to install crucial pollution controls and gave the company emissions-reduction credits for facility changes made almost 40 years ago.

EPA officials failed to object to the flawed permit for this project, which the group’s lawsuit notes “will significantly increase harmful air pollution that will only exacerbate climate change and the poor air quality and respiratory illnesses that plague San Joaquin Valley communities already unfairly burdened with industrial pollution.”

“My neighbors and I already breathe some of the dirtiest air in America, and the last thing we need is a polluting oil refinery next door,” said Tom Frantz, a farmer with the Association of Irritated Residents. “We’ve already got a smog problem that regularly sends kids to the hospital. EPA officials need to do their job and protect our lungs from this dangerous project.”

“The EPA can’t opt out of shielding asthmatic children from air pollution just because they live in Bakersfield,” said Maya Golden-Krasner, a Center attorney. “Local officials gave this hazardous oil refinery a free pass to pollute, and it’s up to the federal government to stop this reckless plan in its tracks.”

“The EPA must take strong action to protect the families and residents of the San Joaquin Valley from this dirty refinery,” said Elly Benson, a Sierra Club staff attorney. “Rather than doubling down on polluting a community that already suffers from some of the worst air pollution in the country, the EPA should put an immediate stop to this dangerous plan.”

“This dangerous refinery represents an outdated grab for fossil fuel profits at the expense of California’s climate future and would result in massive amounts of climate change pollutants spewing into our air,” said Noah Garrison, an attorney for the Climate Change Law Foundation. “California can do better alternative energy options exist, and the EPA has a legal duty to speak up.”

Lower oil prices have led to the project being postponed, but work could resume at any time. Once the Alon refinery and rail terminal are fully operational, the facility will receive as many as two mile-long trains a day full of dangerously explosive Bakken crude oil. Bakken crude emits high levels of volatile organic compounds that lead to ozone pollution.

The San Joaquin Valley is already in “extreme” nonattainment under federal standards for ozone, which triggers asthma attacks and contributes to other respiratory illnesses. Bakersfield had the country’s third most polluted air in 2015, according to the American Lung Association, and more than 20 percent children in the valley will be diagnosed with asthma.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back