In his book, “The Arrogance of Power,” the great statesman William Fulbright once said, “Power confuses itself with virtue and tends to take itself as omnipotent.”
In a video call from Washington, D.C. recently, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. was quoted in published reports as saying that the EPA acted “maliciously” and “illegally” when they shut down the oil refinery on St. Croix. He complained that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “doesn’t give a damn” about the USVI and their actions were “bogus.”
There is no question that Bryan has been given the power of the Office of Governor by the voting public of the Virgin Islands. But when he publicly accuses the EPA of acting maliciously against the people of the USVI, and when he accuses the EPA of bogus and illegal acts, his power is speaking as arrogance and such arrogance is sounding like the omnipotence of a self-proclaimed dictator.
All Americans, including those of us living in the Virgin islands, owe a great debt of gratitude to the decades of work by the EPA. Protecting the purity of the nation’s waters through the Clean Water Act, protecting the air we breathe through the Clean Air Act, remediating environmental contamination through the Superfund and controlling hazardous wastes through stringent discharge permitting are just a few of the many roles played for decades by the EPA.
In May 2021, after repeated incidents of toxic emissions from the refinery, the EPA issued an Emergency Order under Section 303 of the Clean Air Act mandating an immediate shutdown of the refinery. The EPA wasn’t acting “maliciously” or “illegally” – they were using their powers under federal law to protect the people of St. Croix from further harm. It was apparent that the authorities in the Virgin Islands had not taken the necessary steps to prevent this catastrophic event from happening.
The fact that the EPA has only used this power on very few occasions is only evidence of the extreme severity of the problems at Limetree.
And in November 2022, after a fire and a subsequent facility inspection, the EPA notified the new owners of the St. Croix refinery that they could not restart it until they received a new “Prevention of Significant Deterioration” permit under the Clean Air Act. This action was neither “bogus” nor a “stalling action” – it was done to ensure that a catastrophic release of toxic materials would not pollute the waters of St. Croix or harm people in the community.
If the Bryan administration had taken the proper steps four years ago to ensure that any reopening of the refinery was done in a manner that would not harm the people or the environment of the Virgin Islands, then the EPA would never have become involved. But that didn’t happen. The refinery showered residents and farm lands with a toxic oil mist. It burned and failed to monitor the condition of toxic substances. Thank goodness the EPA stepped in and took decisive action.
As a resident of the Virgin Islands I am embarrassed that our Governor has the arrogance to refer to the actions of the EPA as bogus and malicious. And if Governor Bryan intends to sue the EPA, as he has apparently threatened, then this only further demonstrates the arrogance of power.
I, for one, say “Thank You” to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA for taking the necessary steps to protect the land, the waters and the people of the Virgin Islands. There is no argument that we need jobs and economic growth, but at what cost to our most precious resource – our people?
— David Silverman, St John