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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Suit Seeks to Stop Oil Refinery's Reopening

August 25, 2000

SANTA FE SPRINGS — A local environmental group filed a federal lawsuit Thursday seeking an injunction against a proposed oil refinery owned by televangelist Pat Robertson's Charitable Trust foundation.

The suit by Communities for a Better Environment, or CBE, alleges that the city of Santa Fe Springs and the South Coast Air Quality Management District allowed the refinery's owners to skirt federally mandated environmental procedures in obtaining certain permits.

Filed in the Los Angeles U.S. District Court, it names as defendants both government agencies, Robertson's foundation and the Delaware-based CENCO Refinery Co., which is controlled by the Robertson trust and is seeking to reopen the plant.

At issue are environmental violations at the plant that plagued residents in Santa Fe Springs and South Whittier for decades before the refinery closed in 1995.

CENCO, which bought the site in 1998, obtained preliminary zoning and facility permits from Santa Fe Springs and the AQMD, with the goal of reopening the refinery in 2002.

CBE attorneys argue that the site did not undergo vigorous enough environmental reviews before permits were granted. CENCO spokesman Don Brown said his company disagrees, adding, "We've gone above and beyond what the regulations call for."

AQMD attorney Barbara Baird said the agency has required CENCO to make several improvements before it can operate the refinery, thus making sure it's not a nuisance again.

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