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Davis Co. refinery looking to expand production

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Posted at 5:40 PM, Jan 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-21 20:51:40-05

WOODS CROSS, Utah - Utah's bad air quality is at the center of a debate over whether an oil refinery in Davis County should be allowed to increase production.

Holly Refinery wants to dismantle equipment in its New Mexico refinery and move it to the Woods Cross facility, doubling production from 30,000 to 60,000 barrels every day.

In 2008, Holly was told by the Environmental Protection Agency to lower its emissions. Officials say the company has done that by replacing dated equipment with the latest technology and they're confident that an expanded plant would still meet EPA standards.

"Since it is new equipment we are able to use stat-of-the-art controls on it, and beyond that we're installing that on existing equipment and even going beyond what the law requires," said Mike Astin, spokesperson for Holly Frontier.

Company officials say the expansion would bring more jobs and increase fuel supply, but with Utah having the worst air quality in the nation, many are worried about the environmental impact.

Jake Smith and his family live a mile from the refinery. His three sons are on the autism spectrum and suffer from asthma. Dirty air days like the Wasatch Front has been facing for the last several weeks attack the kids' immune systems, causing persistent coughing and even vomiting. 

Smith says he's already looking to move out of state, and the increased pollution is bad news for him.

"To know that there's going to be more pollution, even though they can restrict some emissions, there's going to be more pollution it sounds like," Smith said.

Meanwhile Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment is calling a news conference on Wednesday. They say our air is in a state of emergency and Utah lawmakers need to take tough action.