North Pole Refinery

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

An independent panel of experts will meet here in Fairbanks later this month to review the state environmental agency’s recommended cleanup level for sulfolane contamination in the North Pole area’s groundwater.

KUAC file photo

Officials with Flint Hills Resources-Alaska began shutting down the company’s North Pole refinery today. The closure of the facility that makes gasoline is the first step toward mothballing the whole facility – the largest crude-oil refinery in the state.


KUAC file photo

Officials with Flint Hills Resources Alaska announced today that they will halt processing crude oil at the company’s North Pole refinery over the next few months and shut down the facility. As KUAC’s Tim Ellis reports, company officials decided to shut down the refinery because of rising costs to run it and shrinking profit margins – and ongoing costs of cleaning up groundwater tainted by an industrial solvent that leaked from the refinery for years.


Tim Ellis/KUAC

The operator of the North Pole refinery wants to state to set a lower standard for cleaning up the sulfolane groundwater-contamination problem in the North Pole area. Flint Hills Resources Alaska has asked the head of the state Department of Environmental Conservation to set a less-stringent cleanup level for the industrial solvent that leaked into the groundwater for more than a decade before Flint Hills bought the refinery in 2004. The requests could delay cleanup for several months.


Tim Ellis/KUAC

North Pole Mayor Bryce Ward says he has some concerns about a proposal by Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins to expand the city’s water system into areas where an industrial solvent has contaminated groundwater. Meanwhile two state environmental officials say they strongly support another proposal by Hopkins to quickly begin cleanup of sulfolane-contaminated groundwater in the North Pole area. But they say the cleanup should wait until the state can complete tests on treating the sulfolane.

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

Teams of lawyers representing the past and present owners of the North Pole refinery are preparing for the next round in court while awaiting rulings by a Fairbanks judge after a weeklong hearing in the long-running legal fight over who’s responsible for tainting North Pole’s groundwater with an industrial solvent, and who should pay for helping area residents whose drinking water has been fouled by sulfolane.


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