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Health, Science & Environment

Tesoro Refinery Volunteers To Make Cleaner Fuel

Tesoro Corp.
Tesoro's Salt Lake City refinery will begin producing cleaner fuels under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Tier 3 program by 2020. Cleaner gasoline will mean cleaner air for the Wasatch Front.

Utah’s petroleum refineries aren’t legally required to make the super-clean Tier 3 fuel. But the state’s largest refinery has decided to produce that fuel anyhow in what’s seen as an important move for Wasatch Front air quality.

Tesoro leaders says they will begin cutting the sulfur in the gasoline refined here by two-thirds over the next four years. To do it, the company has to add new equipment that will cost around $100 million.

“Everybody’s got to do their part,” says Utah native Karma Thomson, vice president of Tesoro’s Salt Lake City Refinery and a member of the state Air Quality Board. “And I saw a huge advantage in Tier 3 gasoline, specifically for this region.”

Tier 3 is expected to benefit northern Utah’s more than anywhere else in the country. But the federal law allows refiners to average their pollution reductions over all of their U.S. refineries, so the small Utah refineries aren’t required to make the low-sulfur, Tier 3 gas.

Tesoro’s voluntary move got a shout-out from Gov. Gary Herbert last month, and more kudos are beginning to come in.

“The refinery deserves some credit,” says Cherise Udell,  founder of the advocacy group, Utah Moms for Clean Air. “It’s a good investment for them and a good gesture of neighborliness.”

State lawmakers have Utah’s four other refineries in mind with a bill that would accelerate tax incentives for making the Tier 3 investment. SB 102, sponsored by Republican Sen. Ralph Okerlund of Monroe, could be up for a vote in the Senate as early as this week. 

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