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Judge Bars Work at Closed Refinery

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TIMES ENVIRONMENTAL WRITER

In a setback for plans to reopen an oil refinery in Santa Fe Springs, a federal judge in Los Angeles issued an order Wednesday blocking work at the plant owned by televangelist Pat Robertson’s Charitable Trust foundation.

U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz issued the injunction that prevents work from proceeding on the controversial refinery until a trial is held. Delaware-based CENCO Refinery Co., which is controlled by the Robertson trust, seeks to reopen the refinery, but the plan has run into opposition from environmentalists and community members, who complained about conditions at the refinery before it was shut down in 1995.

The ruling has little immediate effect because the plant remains closed. But it further complicates efforts to reopen the facility.

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The company also has yet to secure the $200 million needed to refurbish the refinery, said CENCO spokesman Donald Brown.

“The deck’s been stacked against us since day one. It’s very hard to open a refinery anywhere in L.A. anymore,” Brown said.

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed one year ago by Communities for a Better Environment, a legal and advocacy group based in Huntington Park.

The organization says officials at Santa Fe Springs City Hall and the local air quality district failed to require CENCO to use state-of-the-art pollution controls required under the national Clean Air Act. CENCO bought the plant in 1998.

However, lawyers for the company and air quality officials maintain that the changes they seek for the refinery will ensure that it doesn’t become a nuisance.

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