@LimeTree Bay Terminals

A refinery rained oil on thousands of St. Croix homes. Now it could reopen.

St. Croix lawyer on the plant’s pollution: “It’s like a ticking time bomb”

The idle Limetree Bay refinery on this tropical Caribbean island doesn’t look like much of a prize, the Washington Post reports.

In May the Environmental Protection Agency ordered it shut down after a series of accidents that showered oil droplets on nearby homes and shrouded neighbors in noxious odors, sending residents to emergency rooms. It is mired in litigation, including class-action lawsuits. And last month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration filed a citation listing 19 “serious” violations and proposed that Limetree pay more than a quarter of a million dollars in penalties.

Despite all that, the massive oil and gas operation appears to be on the verge of reopening. On Tuesday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the Southern District of Texas David R. Jones approved the plant’s sale. And the island’s governor, Albert Bryan (D) has lobbied EPA officials to allow whoever acquires the refinery to reopen it quickly in accordance with a permit granted to Limetree by the Trump administration.

Bryan did not respond to requests for comment.

But the push for jobs has opened fissures on an island whose largely Black and Brown population has played a key role in sustaining America’s fuel supply while bearing the brunt of the harm from it. Now the Biden administration, which has made environmental justice a central part of the president’s climate agenda, must soon decide how to address the environmental inequities linked to race and income here.

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