UNOCAL VOWS TO DISREGARD EPA ORDER TO HALT CONSTRUCTION AT LA REFINERIES

UNOCAL VOWS TO DISREGARD EPA ORDER TO HALT CONSTRUCTION AT LA REFINERIES

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a notice of violation for work on two Unocal refineries in Los Angeles, but the company vowed to go ahead with the construction anyway.

The conflict is the latest battle in a war between the EPA and oil companies, which are struggling to rebuild their refineries in Southern California so they can meet strict federal clean air standards by 1995.With the notice of violation issued Tuesday, the EPA can bring criminal or civil action against Unocal if the company fails to halt construction at its two locations in Carson and Wilmington.

The two plants make up Unocal's Los Angeles Refinery, which produces 125,000 barrels of oil a day.

The EPA has tried to halt construction on refineries owned by Unocal and Chevron Corp. because the companies had not secured the necessary permits for the work from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

"It is absolutely essential that all companies in the Los Angeles basin obtain permits before constructing new sources," said Dave Howekamp, director of the EPA's air and toxics division.

"Not only is it legally required, but it is just good public policy to

allow the public to provide input before regulatory decisions are made," he said.

Both companies have said they were on the verge of winning approval for the construction, and were trying to get a head start on the work to meet the deadlines and to save money.

"We are convinced our actions are legal and in compliance with all rules and regulations," said Roger C. Beach, president and chief operating officer of Unocal.

"The EPA tried to run roughshod over Chevron in a similar manner earlier this month, and the agency has thus far been defeated in the courts," he said. "Now the EPA is trying the same tactics with Unocal. We believe the EPA will be embarrassed again."

The EPA ordered Chevron's construction on its El Segundo refinery halted on Oct. 1, then granted a week's reprieve. When that expired, Chevron officials obtained a federal court order to let construction continue.