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June 1, 2020

Sprague, EPA reach settlement over oil tanks in Searsport, South Portland

aerial view of oil tanks Courtesy / Sprague The Sprague oil tank farm in South Portland is one of two Maine facilities where the company must reduce air pollution under a federal consent decree. Interstate 295 is visible here in the lower right corner.

Sprague Resources LP, the owner of petroleum distribution facilities in Searsport and South Portland, on Friday agreed to comply with federal limits on air pollution from its storage tanks in Maine and five other New England sites.

New Hampshire-based Sprague (NYSE: SRLP) must reduce oil storage, apply for new air pollution control licenses from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and install odor-control equipment at the South Portland tank farm, among other requirements of a tentative consent decree.

The agreement settles a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over alleged violations of federal Clean Air Act rules. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, claimed Sprague exceeded limits on emission of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, from heated tanks that store No. 6 fuel oil and asphalt. The emissions help form ground-level ozone and are considered public health risks.

Sprague’s heated tanks emit VOCs because No. 6 oil and asphalt are stored at high temperatures in order to keep them in liquid rather than solid form. But at those temperatures, some chemicals change from liquid to vapor, and have to be vented to the outside air.

The smell of emissions from the 16-tank South Portland farm, on the mouth of the Fore River and near residential neighborhoods, has prompted public complaints for years. Both the South Portland facility and the Searsport one store No. 6 oil, which is used to fuel industrial boilers.

Under the consent decree, Sprague must abide by caps on the amount of the oil that can be processed or stored at the facilities in Maine. In addition, Sprague must meet federal and state environmental regulations for its tank farms in Everett, Quincy and New Bedford, Mass.; Newington, N.H.; and Providence, R.I.

Sprague must also pay a total of $350,000 in civil penalties imposed by the federal government and Massachusetts.

“This settlement will improve compliance with important clean air laws at Sprague’s facilities that have heated oil tanks, which means cleaner air for communities across New England,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel in a news release.

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