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Air quality issues addressed at Utah Supreme Court hearing for oil refinery expansion

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday about whether state regulators made the right decision in approving expanded operations at an oil refinery that environmental groups contend contributes to northern Utah’s winter air that is sometimes the worst in the nation.

A lawyer for a coalition of environmental groups argued that the state should require stricter emission controls now possible due to technological advances.

Attorneys for the state and Tesoro oil refinery defended the decision, calling it a sound and defensible ruling.

The justices didn’t tip their hand much on the merits of the case, with a large chunk of the 90-minute hearing spent addressing a legal question of whether the environmental groups erred in how they formulated their legal challenge.

Justice Thomas Lee suggested the groups needed to challenge the final agency ruling, not the initial permitting decision.