BP Whiting Refinery shutdown prompts temporary national and state safety and environmental rule changes

August 30, 2022

The shutdown of BP’s Whiting Refinery due to an electrical fire has prompted federal and state officials to temporarily lift environmental and safety rules to prevent a fuel shortage.

An electrical fire at the northwest Indiana refinery Aug. 24 shut down the 430,000-barrel-per-day plant. No one was injured in the fire. BP officials said crews were making progress toward a “phased restart,” but did not say when the plant would return to operation.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan issued an emergency fuel waiver for fuel volatility on gasoline sold in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin through Sept. 15 after an appeal from state governors.

The EPA regulates the vapor pressure of gasoline sold at retail stations between June 1 and Sept. 15 to reduce emissions from gasoline evaporation that contributes to ground-level ozone.

The waiver temporarily allows gas stations and other fuel providers to sell fuels that evaporate faster and produce more ozone chemicals.

“This extreme and unusual fuel circumstance is the result of a fire at BP’s Whiting refinery, an event that could not reasonably have been foreseen and is not attributable to a lack of prudent planning on the part of suppliers of fuel to the waiver area. Furthermore, I have determined that it is in the public interest to grant this waiver and that this waiver applies to the smallest geographic area necessary to address the fuel supply circumstances,” Regan wrote.

The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a regional emergency declaration for the same four states due to the refinery shutdown that allows truck drivers providing direct assistance to the area to bypass restrictions on maximum operating hours.

Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an executive order waiving state inspection and enforcement requirements for state fuel volatility requirements through Sept. 15 and distribution requirements for certain fuels in Clark, Floyd, Lake and Porter counties.

BP Whiting Refinery shutdown prompts temporary national and state safety and environmental rule changes