It doesn't even have to be a clear day for you to be able to see the in Port Reading from Woodbridge Town Hall on Main Street.
Town Hall is where Mayor John McCormac and his 'green team' have been amassing awards for efforts to clean up the environment and reduce the township's carbon footprint.
Yet a little over two miles away, the enormous made major modifications to its fluid catalytic cracking unit that violated the Clean Air Act and spewing unhealthy emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and benzene into the air, federal and state environmental officials said.
The Port Reading refinery will have to make $45 million in pollution control upgrades and pay a negotiated $850,000 fine, in an agreement Hess reached with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Justice, and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the latter said in a statement Wednesday.
In papers filed with the DEP and Justice Dept., there was no mention of when the air pollution violations began. But because of the negotiated improvements to its facility and an agreement to "more diligently monitor its operation, improve emissions leak detection and repair practices, and to develop stricter emissions limits," the EPA said in a statement that they anticipate nitrous oxide emissions will be cut by 181 tons a year.
The changes "should result in reduced emissions of particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, benzene waste gases, volatile organic compounds, and flaring of acid gases," DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said after releasing news of the agreement reached with Hess.
The pollutants not only cause air pollution and smog; they are known irritants to people with asthma and respiratory ailments; benzene is a known cancer causing agent, according to the American Cancer Society.
According to Hess, they maintain their Port Reading refinery is "already one of the cleanest, most energy efficient refineries" in the country.
" The additional projects and investments that result from this agreement, which is part of the EPA’s industry-wide Petroleum Refinery Initiative, will further enhance the facility’s strong environmental performance," the company said in a written statement.
The news that Hess was violating federal air pollution standards right in Woodbridge didn't discourage the township administration in its green efforts.
"One [thing] has nothing to do with the other," said town spokesman John Hagerty sid.
Last year was the third year in a row Woodbridge Township won a "Sustainable Jersey" award, conferred by the NJ League of Municipalities on towns that make superlative efforts at going green.
Woodbridge won in the large municipality category, for its $7 million solar panel project, its green technology center, an automated trash collection system, and a host of other 'green initiatives,' Hagerty said.
Hagerty called Hess "a great corporate citizen," pointing to monies the oil refining corporation has donated to the township for various projects, such as donating to town food banks. Last year, Hess donated $500,000 to revamp a science laboratory at Woodbridge High School.