Hess Gets $850K Fine for Violating Air Pollution Standards at its Port Reading Plant

While Woodbridge is trying to go green, nearby Hess was accused by federal and state officials of violating the Clean Air Act.


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.

slyfox1961 April 26, 2012 at 11:29 AM
Why is the local administration even being mentioned in this article? The last time I checked, the state and federal EPA has the expertise and jurisdiction in a matter such as this, not the mayor and town administration. Cheap shot. Who wrote this article, Tom Maras?
Tom Maras April 26, 2012 at 01:47 PM
No Jon, I didn’t write it. Don’t know what your problem(s) are, but I read it, the article, as fair and balanced. The article discusses the fact a major industrial entity in the township was fined for polluting. NJ 12 and the Home News Tribune also ran the story. Hess violated the law, harmed the environment and, perhaps, created health issues for residents in the area. An area that houses school # 28, a school for children with special needs. If McCormac and his “Green Team” take every opportunity to tout their “awards” for ‘greening’ Woodbridge, where is their indignation over this harmful violation to our Green Environment? Doesn’t this township have a Health Department and Environmental Inspectors? Does the township not get reports about air pollution from State and/or Federal Agency. Or does this administration wait for others to raise environmental concerns, like the Sewaren Dog Park, ProLogic’s expanding its truck parking area to accommodate 600 or so more tractor trailers, Keasbey being made a dumping ground for Bound Brooks’ contaminated soil and, now the Hess mess. If McCormac and his team want 'credit' for the good they claim they do, let them also share the 'credit' for what they don’t do!
Tom Maras April 26, 2012 at 02:04 PM
If Hess was considering closing the refinery because of operating costs and market conditions, before the Cat fix, might the $850,000.00 fine and even more so, the $45,000.000.00 in required pollution control upgrades, cause Hess to reconsider keeping the refinery operational? Given the impact the closing of the refinery could have on the local economy, should such a closure occur, it is hoped the McCormac Administration is staying informed on Hess’s intentions. On the positive side, a $45,000,000.00 capital improvement project would be a welcome boost to the local economy.
slyfox1961 April 26, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Maras, thank you for making my point. Your writings say more about you and your twisted agenda than I ever could. Don't you wonder why noone ever supports anything that you say, except for a few, who are probably you using different names? There is no reason for the local government to get involved, as this has already been taken care of by the authorities to whom the responsibility falls. The other media articles that you noted make no mention of the local governmemt, nor should they, as they have no involvement in this issue. Oh, by the way: the name is spelled John, not Jon.
Can't shut me up April 26, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Never fails Woodbridge protects and defends another offending business in it's town. Remember, Rocco Garruto's Fancy Pup's who is still in business and literally getting away with murder. Good job McCormac. How do you sleep at night?
Deborah Bell (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 04:43 PM
The state DEP and federal EPA do have jurisdiction; but air quality would seem to be a fundamental environmental issue, wouldn't it? Sly, you breathe, don't you? Nowhere in this article is the mayor or the town blamed for what went on at Hess. In view of the admin's efforts at environmentalism and sustainability - and the money being spent for that goal - what's going with toxins and cancer-causing agents being spewed into the atmosphere, two miles away, is more an issue of irony than fingerpointing.
Kevin Seppelt April 26, 2012 at 08:07 PM
$45,850,000 is the total cost in upgraded and fines.. That's it?!! Their net income last quarter $545 million!! And close to $1 billion the quarter 1 year prior. And the $45 million will get written of as an business expense. Hey! Maybe they'll get Clean Air Incentives from the government too!!
mrdirt April 27, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Or Hess may just shutdown the facility, laying off hundreds of workers, more tax burden on home owners to make up the difference in property taxes, also th trickle down effect on local businesses
Tom Maras April 28, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Dear John or Jon, a rose by another name is still a …. As to making your point, Mother Nature should get the credit. I will say, based on your commentary, she shaped yours perfectly for a certain type of hat that some have been known to wear in a corner. So, you think local government should not be blowing the whistle on a local polluter or altering residents to the potential dangers from the pollutants. Let the County, State and/or Feds do that, and then the local politicians can show their concerns and outrage. Good PR, but bad government! Let’s see what “noone”, whoever that is, has to say Oh, by the way, is there a last name to go with the “John”, or is that just another alias you use in certain quarters?


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