BP’s Oregon project


BP is expected to seek approval next year of one of the largest retrofits it has ever proposed for its local refinery in Oregon, which it operates and jointly owns with Canadian-based Husky Energy.

BP and Husky executives say the $2.5 billion project would make the Oregon refinery more efficient. But the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency will have to test that assertion, and other questions related to the project, before it signs off.

BP will propose using the local facility to refine crude oil drawn from an Alberta tar-sands field that it and Husky own. Husky manages the Canadian field.

The Ohio EPA has no authority over the tar sands operation. But its officials believe Toledo’s air quality won’t be worsened, and could even improve slightly, as a result of the proposed improvements to the Oregon refinery.

The U.S. EPA recently announced it would not let BP bid for drilling rights on federally leased lands until further notice because of a “lack of business integrity.” The agency did not specifically cite BP’s role in the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the nation’s worst such disaster.

BP can, with Ohio EPA approval, proceed with the Oregon project because it was in the works before the federal rebuke took effect. The state agency is required by law to judge each permit application on its merits, and supposedly must stick to reviewing technical details.

But BP’s recent history of major health, safety, and environmental violations warrants review in this context. BP incurred a record $4.5 billion federal fine stemming from criminal violations from the Gulf spill. Civil penalties to be assessed next year will add to the toll.

To cover its losses, BP has sold two refineries, including a mammoth facility in Texas. As they review the Oregon project, Ohio EPA officials need to examine BP’s fitness to execute it, not just technically, but also economically, environmentally, and in safety terms.