SOUTH PORTLAND — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has filed a final consent decree in its lawsuit against Global Partners LP, a move that finalizes the penalties to be imposed on the company for alleged Clean Air Act violations at its petroleum storage facility on the Fore River.

The terms of the settlement are the same as the proposed consent decree filed in March, despite written objections submitted by the city and others during a comment period that ran through July 1. The EPA received about 90 comments on the proposed consent decree.

The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized penalties against Global Partners in South Portland for alleged air quality violations the city says it learned of in March. The city had sought more severe penalties against the company. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

In moving forward with the original terms, EPA officials rejected the city’s core complaints: that the agency failed to notify the city about Global’s alleged air quality violations long before it filed the lawsuit, and that it didn’t include the city in negotiating penalties that many say are insufficient.

“They didn’t budge,” Mayor Claude Morgan said Wednesday. “It’s very disappointing.”

The EPA countered that it wasn’t required by law to include the city in negotiating the consent decree because the city wasn’t a party to the lawsuit, according to court papers filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland. The EPA also isn’t required to notify communities of enforcement actions beyond posting them on the agency’s website.

Still, the consent decree claims that EPA officials notified the city about Global’s air quality violations three years before the lawsuit was filed, an assertion city officials strongly dispute. A federal judge will have the final say in approving the settlement and starting the clock on meeting the terms, Morgan said. The city could intervene, he said, but that’s unlikely.

Under the settlement, Global must pay a $40,000 fine and spend at least $150,000 on a program to upgrade or replace wood stoves in Cumberland County with cleaner-burning, more efficient heating equipment. Many criticized the fine as too low and the wood stove program as something not especially relevant to South Portland residents.

Global also must seek a revised emissions license from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and take steps to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, by 20 tons per year.

Those steps include spending $250,000 to install petroleum mist eliminators intended to reduce both VOCs and foul odors that have plagued the Pleasantdale neighborhood for years.

In September, Global announced it would install a total of $400,000 in odor-control equipment on its petroleum storage tanks, contribute $15,000 toward an air quality monitoring program and provide a website, globalsouthportland.com, where residents can report odor complaints directly to Global and read annual emissions data filed with the Maine DEP.

“We’ll continue to work in close partnership with neighbors and local officials,” Global said in a statement issued Wednesday. “We have already started meeting the standards in this consent decree and voluntarily doing more because it’s the right thing to do and because we are part of this neighborhood in South Portland.”

The city sought an alternative settlement that would make Global pay to establish a citywide air quality monitoring program, conduct a public health survey, hire a public health officer and help city residents install solar panels and heat pumps to reduce fossil fuel emissions. The city didn’t specify a total dollar amount but said Global should be assessed daily civil penalties as outlined in federal law, ranging from $32,500 per day for each violation after March 15, 2004, to $97,229 per day for each violation after Nov. 2, 2015.

City officials and residents were surprised in March when the EPA filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the Massachusetts-based company has for several years emitted higher levels of VOCs than allowed under its emissions license from the Maine DEP.

The 12-tank facility is licensed by Maine DEP to emit 21.9 tons of VOCs into the air each year. However, new testing showed that storage and transfer of liquid asphalt and No. 6 heavy residual fuel oil contained in four heated tanks emitted more than 40 tons per year, and the entire facility had the potential to emit more than 50 tons per year.

Global disputes the findings, and Maine DEP officials initially backed the company, though the state agency has since expressed regret that it didn’t make a greater effort to collaborate with the EPA and is now administering a community-wide air quality monitoring program at no cost to the city.

VOCs are chemicals that become gases at ambient pressure and temperatures. Major sources are industrial processes that use solvents, vehicle emissions, evaporation from petroleum storage facilities and forest fires. Many are hazardous to human health and some, including benzene, are classified as carcinogenic, according to the World Health Organization and other health agencies.

VOCs contribute to smog and can produce adverse health effects such as eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system, the EPA said. VOCs also contribute to ground-level ozone, which can trigger a variety of health problems, particularly for children, senior citizens and anyone with lung conditions such as asthma.

In reviewing the final consent decree, city officials past and present balked at the idea that the EPA notified the city it was targeting Global for Clean Air Act violations.

According to court papers, an EPA team attended a City Council meeting in February 2016 “to discuss a proposed ambient air monitoring program that EPA was seeking to fund through a grant.” During that meeting, EPA scientist Patrick Bird provided former City Manager Jim Gailey with information about the agency’s Clean Air Act enforcement efforts in the South Portland area.

At that meeting, Bird delivered a PowerPoint presentation noting that, within the last five years, “EPA had inspected eight petroleum storage facilities (in the South Portland area), issued two emissions testing orders (to two facilities), and issued four notices of violations (to two facilities),” according to Bird’s written testimony.

The PowerPoint didn’t name Global or Sprague Energy, the other petroleum company that EPA has targeted for Clean Air Act violations. Nor did the presentation suggest that EPA was pursuing litigation against Global.

“It sounds to me that they’re leaning on a quick reference as they were flipping through a PowerPoint as proper notice to a community,” said Gailey in a phone interview from his office as Cumberland County manager.

“It was glossed over,” Gailey said. “They didn’t even name (Global or Sprague). I was as surprised as anyone when the lawsuit was filed in March. If the city staff had known, we would have acted on it.”

Scott Morelli, who became city manager in March 2017, said city staff members searched for any documents mentioning EPA air quality actions against Global or Sprague before the lawsuit was filed this year and found nothing.

“They couldn’t come up with anything but that PowerPoint,” Morelli said. “The City Council and the community have made it known that they want a seat at the table when it comes to monitoring air quality in South Portland. I don’t think that vague reference in the PowerPoint resonated with people at the time.”

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